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Teen amputee awarded millions for doctor error

In the case of a chronic medical condition, doctors and other professionals are probably not the only ones providing care. Family members are also called upon to offer routine care and treatment. Parents of children here in Maryland just like anywhere else will often administer medicine and otherwise help their children dealing with medical issues. Difficult questions can arise, however, when these parents try to sue over a medical error.

A Florida teen was recently awarded $12.6 million after losing all four of her limbs due to a medication error made by a medical assistant. The teen suffered intestinal problems as a newborn that led doctors to remove her spleen shortly after birth. The spleen is part of the lymphatic system, which helps stave off infections and fight against germs and bacteria. As a result of the removal of the young girl's spleen, her mother had to administer medicine to help her frail young body fight off infections and viruses.

In 1998, during a regular checkup, a medical assistant injected the young girl with a special vaccination designed to help protect people without spleens against infections. Unfortunately, the vaccine had expired five months earlier. This, according to the young girl's attorney, was the moment that changed the girl's life.

Eight months after receiving the vaccination, the young girl became gravely ill. Her mother took her to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami where it was discovered that she had a bacterial infections and blood clots in her arms and legs. When gangrene set in, doctors were forced to amputate her arms and legs.

According to the university, the mother failed to give the girl enough medication to stave off the infection. Because of the mother's behavior, defense attorneys argued, the girl would have contracted the illness anyway. The jury agreed in part, finding the mother 40 percent at fault for the injuries. The $12.6 million award will therefore be cut almost in half.

The jury award came 13 years after the young girl received the expired vaccine that resulted in the amputation of her arms and legs. While the result is a victory for the family, nothing will fully compensate them for their child's loss.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Miramar teen who lost limbs wins $12.6 mil malpractice suit," Robert Nolin, Jan. 13, 2012

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