Sepsis is a life-threatening medical condition that requires immediate medical attention to prevent patients from going into septic shock. Sepsis occurs when our immune systems malfunction in response to an infection, even a routine infection. It can happen to anyone. If the patient is allowed to slip into severe sepsis and then into septic shock, they may suffer peripheral gangrene, death of tissue, amputation of limbs and even death.
Atlanta-native attorney Render Freeman seeks to protect the rights of sepsis victims in instances where medical malpractice may have occurred and to ensure that they receive the compensation they deserve. He obtains justice for his clients, thanks to his dedication to their welfare.
Mr. Freeman only takes a few select cases at once, allowing himself and his team to fully dedicate themselves to seeking justice for their clients. He understands the trust that patients place in their doctors, and when that trust is betrayed, he is there to make sure that the medical professionals acknowledge, and take responsibility for, their costly mistakes. His track-record of obtaining more than $36 million for his sepsis clients is a testament to his persistence in and out of the courtroom.
In his work over the last twenty-five years, Mr. Freeman prides himself on his ability to truly listen to his clients’ stories and understand what they have been through and what they face in the future. If a lawyer cannot truly hear the client’s story, how can they tell it to a jury?
Mr. Freeman is known as an expert litigator, lecturing and teaching all over the country. His previous position as a defense attorney for insurance companies for more than a decade makes him more effective in negotiating and fighting for his clients’ rights.
If you have suffered because of a doctor’s failure to diagnose and treat your sepsis in a timely manner, contact Render Freeman today for a no-obligation consultation.
For your medical malpractice attorney to help prove your case, it must meet four criteria that demonstrate the medical professional’s negligence. The first element you must establish is the doctor’s duty of reasonable care. Duty is typically proven by showing that a doctor-patient relationship existed and that the doctor had a duty of reasonable care towards his patient. You may use medical records, appointment records, and communication logs to prove this aspect of negligence.
Second, your attorney must prove that your doctor breached their duty of care to their patient by failing to diagnose their condition. Doctors are held to a standard of care that is equivalent to what other reasonable doctors would have done under similar circumstances when presented with a similar patient. Medical experts are used to establish the medical standard of care in medical malpractice cases. Therefore, if a reasonable doctor with similar skills and training would have ordinarily detected sepsis when your doctor did not, a case for medical malpractice can be made.
The next element requires that the culpable actions on the part of the doctor for misdiagnosing sepsis were the legal cause of the patient’s injuries. In other words, if not for the careless actions of the doctor, the patient would not have suffered the injuries sustained.
Once injuries are established, the last element that must be proven is that the patient suffered actual damages. Damages are losses incurred because of the injury, for example medical bills, physical therapy expenses, lost income as well as pain, suffering and lost quality of life.
Sepsis is one of the leading causes of death in U.S. hospitals. It most commonly affects patients under the age of two and over the age of sixty, especially those with compromised immune systems, ongoing chronic conditions, and poor health, but it can affect anyone.
More than a million people contract severe sepsis each year, with 15 to 30% of cases resulting in death. Sepsis has been on the rise in the U.S. due to increased awareness and tracking of the condition, people with chronic diseases living longer, antibiotic resistant infections and a higher number of organ transplants. Despite greater awareness of the condition, sepsis still goes undiagnosed in many patients.
Yearly Deaths in Georgia from Septicemia
- Number of Deaths
- Number of Deaths
The medical community has been well aware of sepsis for a very long time. In 1991, the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) and the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) convened a “Consensus Conference” to provide a conceptual definition of systemic inflammatory response syndrome, sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock. They met again in 2001 and, most recently, in 2016.
Sepsis stems from an already-occurring infection, typically bacterial; however, fungal and viral infections are also common precursors. Sepsis is clinically defined as your body’s abnormal response to an infection.
If you have sepsis, your body turns on itself and starts attacking cells, tissues, and organs via the bloodstream instead of attacking the microorganisms causing the infection. Depending on its severity, sepsis can damage entire organ systems.
When sepsis is not treated promptly, a patient can go into severe sepsis and then septic shock. Septic shock presents a drastic decrease in blood pressure requiring medications such as vasopressor medications to bring the blood pressure to a safe range, typically 65 mm Hg (Mean Arterial Pressure). Vasopressors may save the patient’s life, but they may do so at the expense of the patient’s arms and legs. Early treatment using aggressive antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous fluids drastically improves chances of survival.
The early warning signs that doctors should be aware of are high heart rate and fever, shivering, or feeling very cold. Once sepsis sets in, common symptoms include:
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Clammy or sweaty skin
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- A feeling of imminent death
There is no one test to determine sepsis. Instead doctors must listen to their patients, believe the patient’s subjective reports of pain and symptoms, and search for a source-infection.
As previously mentioned, if sepsis is not treated promptly, septic shock will occur. Septic shock involves rapidly decreasing blood pressure resulting in the body’s failure to deliver blood, oxygen and nutrients to vital organs.
Vasopressors can be helpful in treating septic shock because they increase blood pressure and improve organ and neurological function, but if the patient’s sepsis has been allowed to go untreated for too long, the quantity of vasopressors necessary to save their lives, may cut off blood flow to the extremities, resulting in tissue death, gangrene and amputation. Doctors will sometimes use norepinephrine as a first vasopressor. If that fails to bring up blood pressure, epinephrine can be used.
Septic shock also sends your body’s blood-clotting system into overdrive, which blocks the ability for blood to get to all areas of your body. Once the blood vessels are completely closed, your hands, arms, feet, etc. cannot get blood and begin to die and contract gangrene. The tissue will eventually turn black. The area of tissue that dies must be removed because it enhances the infection’s ability to spread. This can result in amputation of the hands and feet.
Sepsis begins with an infection. Scientists and doctors still do not fully understand the mechanism that changes the body’s immune response from fighting the infection to attacking the body. Prevention of infection is essential to protect against sepsis.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following to prevent infection and reduce your risk of contracting sepsis:
- They encourage doctors to actively perform checks and offer education to those patients with chronic health issues and compromised immune systems. Patients with chronic medical conditions are most likely seeing their doctor on a regular basis, this provides the perfect opportunity for their doctor to check for infection, open wounds, rashes, etc.
- Keep up to date on your vaccinations. Pneumonia is a common infection that leads to sepsis. The CDC also noted that only one third of sepsis patients were vaccinated with the flu vaccine. Staying up to date on vaccinations can prevent future infection
- One fourth of sepsis patients developed sepsis after a urinary tract infection. Early treatment for this condition is essential.
- One in ten sepsis patients contracted it after not properly treating an open wound. The CDC recommends thorough cleaning of any open wound, as well as keeping the wound clean and dry.
- Lastly, hospitals are a prime spot for bacteria, fungus, and viruses to collect. Twenty percent of sepsis cases stem from an infection beginning in the hospital. Make sure to practice cleanliness while in the hospital and require friends, family members, doctors, and nurses to sanitize before any interaction.
Although we mention hospitals as a source of infection that precedes sepsis, it is also a common misconception that most sepsis cases start in the hospital. In fact, 80% of sepsis cases are caused by infections from schools, work places, homes, parks, and public places outside the hospital. It is equally important to practice the same caution regarding bacteria and other infectious organisms outside the hospital.
Another common misconception about sepsis is that it is a type of infection. It is important to understand that sepsis is not an infection but your body’s response to an already occurring infection. Preventing infection prevents sepsis.
Lastly, it is not uncommon for individuals to believe that infections are not a serious medical condition. Many patients contract staph infections, strep throat, urinary tract infections and make an appointment with their general doctor and receive antibiotics. However, there are times that individuals think they can wait a few days to a week before being seen for the infection due to work, prior commitments, child care obligations, and more. Failing to be treated for an infection increases the risk of sepsis, and undertreated sepsis can lead to death. In fact, sepsis leads to more deaths each year than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined.
In 2017, a $1 million settlement was granted to the surviving spouse of an Illinois man who died from lack of prompt medical treatment for his sepsis. The man went to the emergency room and had to wait two hours before antibiotics were introduced into his system. Though he was eventually diagnosed with sepsis, it was too late. Three hours after the diagnosis, the man passed away. While no amount of money can be placed on a life, the jury awarded $1 million to his family to assist with medical expenses, loss of companionship, and other expenses related to his wrongful death.
Another 2017 Illinois case involved a twelve-year-old female that went to the hospital with mononucleosis, strep, and a developing organ infection. The child was sent to receive a CT scan instead of prompt treatment of her developing sepsis. Before antibiotics were administered, she developed sepsis, which spread to her brain causing permanent brain damage. The jury awarded $40 million dollars for her required future care and the gross negligence on the part of the medical providers.
Another case was privately settled in Maryland in 2016, in which the hospital provided over $1 million to the family. The victim, a father and husband, went to the hospital in 2016 with chills, fever, and a rapid heart and respiratory rate. The hospital administered intravenous fluids and released the patient the same day, failing to detect sepsis. The patient went to his general doctor the next day, who immediately recognized the signs of sepsis and had him transported to the hospital via ambulance. Unfortunately, the patient died the next day.
The tragic consequences of failure to detect and diagnosis sepsis are unacceptable in this era of medical sophistication and technology. Treating the condition right away with antibiotics and intravenous fluids has far less consequences than failing to consider sepsis when a patient arrives at the doctor’s office or hospital with obvious symptoms.
The statute of limitations in Georgia to bring a medical malpractice claim is two years from the date of the injury or the date of death. To preserve your rights and right to compensation for injuries you or your loved one endured resulting from sepsis misdiagnosis, contact Render Freeman of Andersen, Tate & Carr law firm today.
What can happen if a doctor fails to diagnose the disease properly?
Left untreated sepsis may turn into septic shock. This occurs when misdiagnosis allows the underlying infection to rampage the body unfettered by proper antibiotics and intravenous fluids. Kidney and lung failure usually follow as the organs begin to shut down and oxygen is not being properly routed to the body.
Immediate control of the underlying infection is necessary because the infection is disseminating toxins and microorganisms throughout the body, and the body continues to attack itself. This continued attack, if not controlled, is what leads to the complications of sepsis and septic shock, decreased blood flow, organ system failure, respiratory depression, and loss of cognitive function.
How does sepsis cause death and dismemberment?
Sepsis, if left untreated, leads to septic shock. Septic shock results in decreased blood pressure, blood clotting, and the inability of oxygen and nutrients to reach body tissues, muscles, and organs. Once our organs begin shutting down and the lungs are unable to operate, the patient may die.
When in septic shock, the blood clotting occurs at a much faster rate. Oftentimes, blood clots will block entire arteries and veins, shutting off blood flow to that area. The body may not be able to disperse blood to the hands, arms, feet, and legs of the victim. If blood flow cannot be resumed, the tissue begins to die and gangrene sets in. Gangrenous tissue and limbs must be removed immediately because they create a safe-harbor where the infection can hide and multiply, spinning off toxins that poison the body and turn it against itself.
Is the disease contagious?
While sepsis is not contagious, the underlying infection can be contagious. If you or a loved one has an infection, it is important to sanitize everything you touch and limit direct contact with others.