Doctor’s Premature Declaration of Death Leads to Lawsuit

When a medical professional fails to provide emergency care in a timely fashion, it has devastating consequences.  When a patient suffers a serious emergency, like a heart attack or stroke, immediate care can be the difference between life and death. If even the smallest amount of time passes without critical care, a patient can die or sustain permanent damage. When a doctor causes a delay in treatment, either through negligence or even a simple mistake, like forgetting a patient’s room number, it may be grounds for a medical malpractice case, as the delay directly impacted the patient’s ability to survive.

This is the basic point at the center of a lawsuit over a 2014 incident at a hospital in Buffalo, New York. The doctor’s error, though, was not a typical example of a delay in care. Instead, he pronounced a patient dead when the patient was still alive!

What Happened?

The patient, a 46-year-old father, arrived at the hospital around 8:04 PM after collapsing from a heart attack. He was declared dead soon after arrival, and his family came into his room to say their goodbyes. But as they stood in the hospital room, the man’s family began to notice signs of life. The “deceased” man’s chest was moving, and a vein could be seen pulsing in his neck, showing a pulse. Even the coroner who was there to get the body was concerned by the sight. Both he and the patient’s family pointed out that the patient was still showing signs of life.

The doctor, however, refused to believe them. He said the movement was the result of excess air leaving the body, and refused to recheck the man’s pulse. When the doctor, who had only recently finished his medical school training, finally relented, he realized that the man was still alive. He was taken to a different hospital, where he received treatment. Unfortunately, he was officially pronounced dead later that night.

Following this traumatic incident, the man’s family is suing the doctor and the hospital. They claim that the premature declaration of death lead to a critical delay in treatment. If he hadn’t been declared dead so early, the doctor would have been able to continue care.  They add that the doctor behaved negligently by failing to recheck the patient’s pulse, even after the requests from the family, and believe he breached a standard of care that he had to the patient. The hospital, on the other hand, says they did all they could for the patient. They said that the patient would have died even without the alleged delay.

Know Your Rights

Stories like this are thankfully rare, as most people could not even imagine the horror and hardship that this family went through. Most doctors are professional, responsible, and considerate, and will do all they can to save a patient’s life. However, serious injuries and even fatalities can result from a delay or misdiagnoses, as this recent lawsuit proves. When a loved one is in the hospital after an accident or emergency, it is a difficult time, but it is also important to know your rights and the rights of the patient. This way, you can hold the doctor to the standard of care that the patient deserves.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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