Articles Tagged with “medical malpractice”

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Lila Gale and her family were set to cruise in the Caribbean aboard the MS Zuiderdam when she sustained a stroke within 100 miles of Florida. The symptoms she displayed left no room for error and the Holland America Line (HAL) doctor diagnosed her with having sustained a stroke within minutes.

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With the severity of the condition, coupled with the proximity of the ship to Broward Health Medical Center – a comprehensive stroke center in Fort Lauderdale – a medical evacuation had to be ordered and implemented without delay. Instead, Lila received the most odious and deplorable treatment from HAL which ultimately doomed her health, causing irreversible brain damage.

Upon arrival to the ship’s infirmary, Lila was noted to be confused, drowsy and with slurred speech. A provisional diagnosis of “severe stroke” was made. At this very moment, a medical air-evacuation was both medically necessary and operationally feasible. However, against all common emergent medicine sense and standards, HAL’s doctor, Dr. Socrates Lopez did not order a medevac. Instead he intubated Lila and observed her health deteriorate for the next two hours without attempting to further treat his patient.

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For the longest times, cruise ship passengers were not allowed to bring cruise lines as defendants in medical malpractice claims to recover for the negligent acts of a doctor or a nurse when they were committed aboard a cruise ship. In almost every single scenario, passengers were left without anyone to sue. Injustice remained served for years, until today.

In its latest ruling, judges of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the previous law, Barbetta, was outdated, and allowed the family of a deceased cruise passenger to continue on with a lawsuit for medical malpractice against the cruise line, in this case, Royal Caribbean.

The Barbetta ruling was justified in the nature of the relationship between the passenger and the physician, and the carrier’s lack of control over that relationship. The Fifth Circuit Court ruled that “the work which a physician or a surgeon does . . . is under the control of the passengers themselves. It is their business, not the business of the carrier. . . . The master or owners of the ship cannot interfere in the treatment of the medical officer when he attends a passenger. He is not their servant engaged in their business, and subject to their control as to his mode of treatment.” [Secondly] “[a] ship’s physician is an independent medical expert engaged on the basis of his professional qualifications and carried on board a ship for the convenience of passengers, who are free to contract with him for any medical services they may require.”

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