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Eleven months of pre-death pain and suffering is worth a whopping $3 million under New York medical malpractice law. At least until it's appealed to the state's highest court.
Theresa Capwell was admitted to Westchester Medical Center on September 18, 2000 with a diagnosis of pancreatitis. After being placed on a ventilator due to acute respiratory distress, she suffered a heart attack. The heart attack resulted in brain damage, leaving her in a persistent vegetative state. She died 11 months later.
Upon Capwell's death, her family filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital and doctors. Medical malpractice lawsuits vary slightly from standard personal injury and negligence cases in that it measures a medical professional's conduct against a different standard. A medical professional has a duty to adhere to the normal standard of care as provided by someone of similar training in the medical community. Basically, a doctor can't veer from any accepted procedures.
In the case of Theresa Capwell, her family alleged that her vegetative state and eventual death were caused by the hospital's failure to treat her condition. Instead of treating her for pancreatitis they treated her for ovarian cancer, reports the New York Injury Cases blog. There appears to have been an obvious breakdown in communication amongst the medical staff.
While $300 million is not unheard of in the history of New York medical malpractice awards, the blog further notes, it is unheard of for such a short period of pain and suffering. The appellate court affirmed the jury award because Mrs. Capwell was aware of her surroundings during those 11 months--the last 11 months of her life. As per most medical malpractice awards, the family was also awarded $1 million for loss of consortium, and has now filed wrongful death and loss of parental guidance claims.