April 3, 2015 saw a VA medical malpractice verdict for the very deserving family of veteran Michael Farley in New Hampshire. Our client was a 60 year old Navy veteran who now has a horrific condition known as locked-in syndrome. With locked-in syndrome, the stroke survivor is fully conscious yet he has no power to move his body except to blink his eyes and very few head movements. Mr. Farley cannot communicate. The trial judge held that VA carelessly prescribed the wrong medication and medically abandoned our client.
The Court found that the VA medical malpractice caused Mr. Farley’s current situation because they failed to properly diagnose and treat a stroke suffered by our client. Our client sought treatment from the Manchester, New Hampshire VA after he began experiencing severe headache and a partial loss of vision. The urgent care providers at the Manchester Veterans Affairs determined that this patient had a stroke, yet discharged him from the hospital without the life saving medication he needed to prevent a second stroke. The medical professionals treating our client did not adhere to the standard of care. Six weeks later, Mr. Farley suffered a second, much larger stroke, which left him with locked-in syndrome.
VA Medical Malpractice Causes Locked-In Syndrome
Locked-in syndrome is one of the most horrific injuries an individual can suffer. When locked-in syndrome can be prevented by following the standard of care, the medical professionals who caused this injury should take responsibility for their conduct.
The trial court found $1,368,710.62 in upfront medical costs, $12,000,000 in future medical care, $8,100,000.00 in non-economic harm to our locked-in syndrome veteran, and $100,000 in loss of consortium to his wife. The total damages in the case were $21,568,710.62. The Court noted that the non-economic damages were appropriate for this case for several reasons:
- Although our client is all but paralyzed due to the locked-in syndrome, he can still feel pain, pressure, and other sensations. When he is in pain, he has no way of communicating that pain to any of his care givers.
- Because of the locked-in syndrome, our client has painful contractures of his upper and lower extremities. His elbow, for example, is contracted 90 degrees. His hands are fisted in a position that cause his fingernails to dig into his palms, causing him pain. His legs are also criss-crossed as a result of these contractures, which prevents him from sitting without pain, and renders him unable to sit in a wheelchair for any more than a short period of time.
- In the four years before the trial, our client’s VA-contracted care givers were not able to take him outside. Before the stroke that left our client with locked-in syndrome, he enjoyed hiking and other outdoor activities.
- The VA contracted facility that our client was placed in was up to a 6 hour drive from his family. His family had to drive through a mountain range in order to visit him. This becomes particularly dangerous during the New Hampshire winters. And of course, the importance of being close to the family for health and well-being cannot be understated.
The Court stated: “It is a basic principle of medicine that a patient who has suffered a stroke is generally at an elevated risk of suffering a second stroke. Therefore, doctors who are treating stroke patients must be cognizant of this risk, and they must take steps to prevent a second stroke from occurring. As such, the established standard of care requires that a stroke patient undergo a thorough diagnostic evaluation to determine the cause of his stroke, and it requires that the patient be prescribed certain medication to treat the underlying condition that caused the stroke to occur.” The Court found that because these basic principles of medicine were not followed, our client suffered this horrific injury leaving him with locked-in syndrome.
If you or a family member has been the victim of VA medical malpractice that has resulted in strokes or locked-in syndrome, you should seek a consultation to determine whether the individuals responsible can be held accountable.