Locked-In Syndrome Malpractice Cases Ends with $75M Verdict Against Docs
A $75 million medical malpractice verdict has been issued against an emergency department physician and a radiologist at North Fulton Regional Hospital in Roswell, Georgia, in the case of Jonathan Buckelew, a 32-year-old patient who suffered a brainstem stroke following a collapse during chiropractic neck treatment in 2015. According to Buckelew's attorney, Laura Shamp, he developed locked-in syndrome following a series of miscommunications and negligence by multiple providers, which occurs when a patient experiences complete paralysis except for the muscles that control eye movements. Court documents filed by his attorney state, "Mr. Buckelew has expended millions of dollars for medical expenses for his care and he will need 24 hour a day care for the rest of his life." The jury attributed 60% fault to emergency department physician Matthew Womack, MD, and 40% to radiologist James Waldschmidt, MD. Shamp accused Womack of failing to inform the consulting neurologist of the chiropractic neck adjustment, failing to adequately communicate the results from CT angiography and lumbar puncture, and failing to rule out a vertebral artery dissection. She added that Waldschmidt did not "[appreciate] an indisputable acute or subacute vertebral-basilar artery occlusion." However, the jury found that the neurologist, a critical care physician, a physician assistant, and intensive care unit nurses, who also faced various allegations, were not liable. Chiropractor Michael Axt, DC, meanwhile, reached an amicable resolution with the patient. "This is a very large verdict," said Texas-based medical malpractice attorney James B. Edwards, who was not involved in the case. "The more sympathetic the plaintiff and the situation, the greater risk of a verdict [against] the defendants. Cases that elicit significant and sometimes decisive sympathy include locked-in syndrome, permanent vegetative state, injury to the sexual or reproductive organs, burns, and blindness."
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