Did your Oregon doctor commit medical malpractice by failing to diagnose and treat your Heart Attack? 5 Questions to help you decide if you have a case.

Heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) are always scary incidents and difficult to deal with afterwards. No preparation, class, or book can truly prepare you for how a heart attack will change your life.  Whether it happens to you or someone you love, your life will forever be changed because of the heart attack.


Heart attacks generally happen suddenly, without warning, and require immediate medical attention.  Each year, approximately 790,000 Americans have a heart attack. Hospitals, Emergency Room and Urgent Care doctors are all trained to recognize and treat heart attacks. Most ER doctors are well meaning and caring individuals who have duty to perform the best possible care to save your life or that of your loved one and take that responsibility seriously.


Unfortunately, though, some doctors fail to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, properly treat it, or send the patient home prematurely and the patient then suffers further harm or dies.  If the hospital or ER doctor fails to treat a heart attack, it can constitute medical malpractice. Victims of serious medical mistakes, like failing to diagnose a heart attack, are devastated because their or their loved one’s life is permanently altered because a mistake was made – a mistake that they could do nothing to prevent.


If you are reading this article, you or a loved one likely suffered serious harm due to a nurse, doctor, or other medical professional’s inattentiveness or delay in treating the symptoms of a heart attack.  No doubt, you are experiencing grief, frustration, and anger and likely looking for answers. Sadly, often times when serious mistakes are made, the doctors, nurses, and hospitals at fault, refuse to provide the victims straight answers to their questions.  


What you will discover below are answers that will help you with determining if you need assistance in getting more answers from the hospital for you or your loved one.   


  1. How disastrous was the medical malpractice?  Did you or your loved one suffer a permanent injury or death?   


Medical malpractice claims are some of the most difficult cases to prove.  Often times the patient is unconscious or in so much pain that they cannot serve as a witness to what happened.  Additionally, after the medical error the doctor, hospital, or risk management agent (a high ranking employee at the  hospital whose job it is to keep the hospital from being sued and to work with the hospital’s insurance company to lessen or eliminate legal claims) often carefully write the notations in the medical records to justify their actions or recount the event in the light most favorable to them.  Some of the world’s largest for-profit insurance companies insure hospitals and their doctors and fight tooth-and-nail to keep their money and large yearly profits at the expense of patients who were harmed through medical mistakes.  


Because of these dynamics, Oregon medical malpractice attorneys can usually accept only those few cases where serious and catastrophic harm occurred as a result of the failure to diagnose a heart attack or the hospital’s decision to discharge a patient too early.  As such, it is important for you to be able to explain to a Medical Malpractice lawyer how the medical mistake has changed your life. Important things to think about that will help an Oregon medical malpractice attorney in analysis of your claim include:


  • Are there activities that you can no longer do since the heart attack?
  • Are you still able to work after the heart attack or did you have to take a leave of absence, quit, retire, or find a new line of work altogether?  
  • Has your doctor informed you that your heart or other organs suffered permanent or serious damage as a result of the delay in treating your heart attack?
  • Did you have to have surgeries or ongoing treatment to continue to repair or monitor the damage from the heart attack?  
  • Did your loved one die from the misdiagnosd heart attack?


2.  What were your heart attack symptoms and how long did it take for the doctor to treat you?  


Putting together the timeline of the events surrounding your heart attack can help demonstrate that medical malpractice occurred.  If you felt chest pains and immediately called 911 or an ambulance, but it took a long time for them to arrive that is important for your lawyer to know.  


Or, if you got to the hospital right away, but were forced to sit in the ER’s  waiting room for a long period of time instead of being immediately seen, you should also let your Attorney as well.  


In addition to understanding what happened, an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney will want to know what symptoms you or your loved one arrived at the medical facility?  It would be important to know if the patient experienced any of the following symptoms:


  • Chest discomfort such as pressure or pain;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, or neck;
  • Sweating;
  • Lightheaded or dizziness;
  • Nausea


Also, it is crucial to know whether you or your loved one actually told the doctor or emergency room staff that you came in because you thought you were having a heart attack.  Many patients experiencing a heart attack can determine from their own symptoms that they are having a heart attack and can easily vocalize their concerns to their doctor.  Tragically, some doctors have discredited their patients’ suspicions and then wrongly diagnosed the heart attack as another condition, later causing serious harm and sometimes death to the patient.   


3.  How much time did the doctor spend with you and what did he/she do to attempt to diagnose the heart attack?


Did the doctor or nurse spend enough time asking you questions about your medical history and your symptoms?  Did they actually listen to you or were they just looking at your chart and not paying attention?


Did your doctor do any testing such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), or at least listen to your heart with a stethoscope?  Did the hospital monitor you for several hours afterwards to confirm that everything was okay or did they send you home right away and without putting together a follow-up plan of treatment?  


Generally accepted standards for assessing a heart attack require that, at a minimum, within the first 10 minutes of arriving at the emergency room, a patient with suspected heart attack symptoms should be placed on an electrocardiogram, his/her abbreviated medical  history should be discussed with the doctor, and a physical examination of some degree should occur. If your doctor or the hospital missed one of these important steps, it could be medical malpractice and is important to communicate this to your Oregon medmal attorney.       

An electrocardiogram can help a doctor to determine with near certainty that a patient is having a heart attack

4.  Was your heart attack misdiagnosed?  If so, it could be medical malpractice.  


It is also important to know what your doctor misdiagnosed your symptoms as.  Did your doctor quickly and incorrectly diagnose your symptoms? Heart attacks can often be mistaken for heartburn, indigestion, anxiety, panic attacks, angina, gallstones, or even as acid reflux.  


Sometimes the clear symptoms of a heart attack will be overlooked if the patient is young, appears fit, or is female as doctors generally tend to equate heart attacks as a condition that is more prevalent in older men.  A review of your complete medical records from the visit will help to determine what the heart attack was diagnosed as and whether the misdiagnosis was improper given the symptoms and testing performed. If you have not yet obtained your medical records, your medical malpractice lawyer can help you to do so.       


5.  How has the doctor’s failure to treat or diagnose your heart attack changed your family’s life?  


If you or a loved one suffered from a heart attack there can be significant consequences both emotionally and financially.  If your loved one died from the heart attack, your loss will be immense and no doubt will be filled with grief and frustration if your loved one received substandard medical care.  If you survived your heart attack, but it went undiagnosed or there was a lengthy delay in diagnosis, you may be dealing with difficult consequences. There may be permanent damage to your heart or you may have to periodically undergo heart transplants throughout your life.  


To best be able to help you, it is important for your Oregon medical malpractice lawyer to understand your physical, emotional, and financial difficulties since the heart attack.  For example: it would be important to know:


  • Has permanent damage to the heart muscle occurred?
  • Was there need for additional medical care or surgical procedures after the heart attack?;
  • Does your current doctor anticipate that there will be future medical procedures needed as a result of the heart attack?
  • Will you need a heart transplant in the future?
  • Have you been forced to miss work for an extended period of time as a result of the heart attack?
  • Can you no longer perform your job or in your career in the same capacity since the heart attack?
  • Are there activities you can no longer do as a result of the heart attack?  


Other Important Issues to Consider


Your Medical Background Prior to the Heart Attack


In evaluating a potential medical malpractice heart attack case, the patient’s medical history prior to the heart attack is certainly important.  Understanding what underlying medical conditions you had prior to the heart attack and which conditions were relayed to the doctor or emergency room provider either by you or through your medical records will help determine what tests and procedures the doctor should have performed and what background information and questions the doctor should have asked you when you were admitted to the hospital.  


EKGs, Cardiac Catheterizations, and angiograms are all tools that can help present the full picture to doctors and give them the insight to better treat heart attacks.  Knowing whether you or your loved one had a history of heart attacks, heart murmurs, irregular heartbeats, or heart flutters can also assist in diagnosing and treating a suspected heart attack.  


How can a medical malpractice attorney help us?


Most doctors, hospitals, and the large insurance companies that defend them, do everything they can to avoid being held accountable for their serious mistakes.  Few ever come forward and admit that they did anything wrong – even when they know it. As such, it can be hard to get straight answers from the treating doctor or hospital as to what happened.  Often times the health care provider knows that they were negligent in diagnosing or treating the heart attack and includes either too little information in your loved one’s medical records to determine what happened, or only recounts the favorable treatment they provided the patient and leaves out their negligent conduct.  


An experienced Oregon medical malpractice lawyer will review you or your loved one’s medical records, talk to you about what was relayed to the hospital, and then if he or she believes that negligence occurred will begin consulting with doctors experienced in patient care to confirm whether the doctor deviated from the standard of a care in treating and diagnosing the heart attack.  Then, your lawyer will begin gathering evidence to prove the negligence. After a game-plan is developed for proving the medical mistake in failing to diagnose or treat the heart attack, your lawyer will then begin to gather evidence as to how the error harmed you, changed your life, and impacted your loved ones.


Resources for Survivors of Cardiac Arrest


Below are several resources for victims of heart attacks.  


Life After Sudden Cardiac Arrest – National Survivors and Resource Group


Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association


American Heart Association


Oregon Branch of the American Heart Association


Medical Malpractice Attorneys Representing victims of misdiagnosed and improperly treated heart attacks in Oregon


If you or a loved one suffered a heart attack that the doctor failed to treat quickly enough or incorrectly diagnosed it and would like to discuss your matter with an experienced Oregon medical malpractice lawyer to learn more, please submit your information in our contact form on the side of the page or contact us at (541) 385-1999.  We handle heart attack medical malpractice cases throughout Oregon.  Our main office is located in Bend, Oregon, but we also handle cases in Portland, Deschutes County, Redmond, Sisters, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, The Dalles, Hood River, Clackamas, Corvallis, Albany, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tigard, Salem, Vancouver, Washington, Beaverton, Oregon City, Eugene, Coos Bay, Astoria, Newport, Pendleton, Tillamook,  Milwaukie, Gresham, Hillsboro, Medford, and any other city, including Bend, Oregon where our main law office is located, please call Kuhlman Law, LLC by dialing (541) 385-1999 to learn what your rights to compensation you may have.  You may also contact us using our easy and convenient “contact us” box at the bottom of our website.  If we accept your case, we will conduct a thorough investigation to get you the answers you deserve, all for free.  There is no risk, and you only pay us if we recover compensation for you.

We also review cases in other states as well. If we accept your case, we generally do so on a contingency fee basis which means that unless we recover for you, there are no fees.


To request a free case consultation or learn more about your rights and options, contact us today.  Unlike other states, there is a short statute of limitations periods for medical malpractices claims in Oregon, so we encourage you to contact an attorney immediately.   

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