The Mississippi Supreme Court last week affirmed a $4 million in compensatory damage award in the case of Carthage woman who died from a lethal dose of painkillers after being misdiagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Plaintiff’s decedent had been given large volumes of the painkiller Dilaudid while she was at a hospice. Incredibly, the woman’s autopsy showed that the woman never had cancer in the first place. The court also dismissed $500,000 punitive damages against the medical director of the hospice at the time of the incident.
The hospice in this case tendered their $1 million policy before trial. The medical malpractice case proceeded against the doctor who ordered the medication. The doctor’s defense at the malpractice trial was that patients at hospices often need high dosages of medication because they build up tolerance to the drug that takes away their pain. I appreciate this argument but there has to be a balance between giving people the medication they need and not killing them. Did the doctor in this case really try to find that balance? Certainly, this Mississippi jury in this medical malpractice lawsuit did not believe that the doctor sought that balance.