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Wrongful death claim possible after man dies in ER

A New York hospital is facing tough questions after a man died while waiting for treatment. The 54-year-old man had been brought to the emergency room after he was found unconscious on the floor in a convenience store. At first, he refused to get into the ambulance, but eventually the man arrived at the hospital, got off the stretcher of his own volition and sat down in a wheelchair. About two and a half hours later, the man was found dead in the waiting room. The hospital and the travel nurse it contracted may be facing a wrongful death claim.

Emergency room procedures begin with a nurse assessing the condition of a patient to ascertain how urgently he or she needs attention. To determine the urgency, the nurse takes vital signs and asks a series of questions, then ranks the patient on a scale of one to five, with one being an extreme emergency. The travel nurse on duty ranked the man a four and wheeled him into the waiting room where he died later that evening.

As the investigation into the man's death developed, it was discovered that the nurse never evaluated the man. In fact, the documentation she recorded in his chart was falsified. Despite the nurse's claim that she did the evaluation in the waiting room, surveillance cameras showed that the man sat by himself for almost two hours without interaction with the nurse or any medical personnel.

Since the incident, the hospital has changed its procedures for evaluating and observing patients in the waiting room. However, the family of the deceased man has a right to consult a New York attorney about the circumstances under which he died. In cases like this, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed against any of the hospital employees whose negligence may have contributed to the man's death. The hospital may also be included as a defendant.

Source: ithacajournal.com, "Death in waiting room: State probes ER fatality at CMC", Matt Weinstein, Feb. 8, 2017

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