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Supreme Court last chance for Pennsylvania VA malpractice case

Calls bells were placed in all patient rooms at the Chester County Veterans Administration facility in Coatesville. The change was made since the death of a Pennsylvania Vietnam veteran, a patient at the VA psychiatric hospital. The improvement is a small victory for the widow of the late Marine corporal.

The soldier suffered from multiple health conditions including serious post-traumatic stress disorder after his military service. The widow claims the VA was guilty of hospital negligence and medical malpractice in the care of her spouse of 34 years.

The veteran's PTSD symptoms became so pervasive in 2008 that the former Marine sought admission to the Coatesville facility. The patient was treated for respiratory distress from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and returned to his room. Hours later, he suffered a "code blue" breathing attack.

According to the soldier's widow, the struggling patient had no call bell and no phone access for emergency assistance. The hospital staff responded only after another veteran found a technician.

By the time the patient was transferred to a better-equipped hospital, the man had suffered an irreversible lack of oxygen. He died in hospice care within a few months.

The veteran's widow claimed the VA hospital's care was inadequate and harmful. A medical malpractice case was decided in a bench trial. The judge was convinced by a government expert that the Coatesville facility's standard of care was satisfactory.

During an appeal, the widow argued her husband should have been given CPR by the responding VA technician. The judge said there was no proof CPR would have made any difference to the veteran's condition.

The widow now hopes the U.S. Supreme Court accepts the case.

Personal injury and wrongful death attorneys prepare clients for possible outcomes in a liability case. The strength of a claim for medical malpractice damages is only as strong as the evidence of harm and negligence presented in court.

Source:, "Veteran's widow fighting battle over husband's death years after he left battlefields of Vietnam," Michelle Caffrey, March 26, 2013

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