Three doctors on involuntary manslaughter charges


Patient dies from wrongful diagnosis

In April 2014, an elderly lady who was admitted to Ospedale Maggiore diagnosed with pericarditis (see note below), was in fact, suffering from internal haemorrhaging of the aorta. She died the next morning. For this reason, the three doctors who treated her have appeared in front of Judge Letizio Magliaro accused of involuntary manslaughter.

Ospedale Maggiore_20.2.16The 65 year-old lady was taken into the emergency ward on the morning of April 18th complaining of strong chest pains. That evening Doctor Cristina Orlandini, 50, and Doctor Stefano Ramilli, 42, diagnosed her according to her symptoms. The third doctor Massimo Palmieri, 61, was tasked with consulting the other doctors via telephone.

Prosecutor Giuseppe Di Giorgio opened a case against the accused after the family made an official complaint. They are being tried for ‘negligence and incompetence’ for not having identified the ‘pathology in place, namely the dissection of the aorta.’’ If they had carried out the necessary controls, Prosecutor Di Giorgio clarified that, “they would have surely discovered the dissection and proceeded to follow emergency surgery for this specific pathology thereby avoiding this judicial case.” In other words, they could have saved the patient but they were guilty of negligence because they did not follow proper guidelines regarding the symptoms.

Mis-diagnosis:

  • two electrocardiograms the evening before suggested it was not related to pericarditis.
  • radiography exam of the patient’s chest showed enlarged cardiac silhouette from pleural effusion.

Real diagnosis:

  • was in fact, suffering from internal haemorrhaging of the aorta.

Furthermore, the first two doctors even after receiving the results of two electrocardiograms at 1916 and 2230 in the evening suggested the illness was not related to pericarditis. An additional radiography exam of the patient’s chest showed “…an enlarged cardiac silhouette from pleural effusion.” When they sent her for an echocardiogram the next morning it was by then already too late, Di Giorgio stated.

The court case will proceed to the next stage and a full hearing is set for the beginning of November. Lawyers for the defendants however, have said that they are ready to show that their clients behaved correctly and they are not to blame for the patient’s demise.

Medical explanation note:

Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane surrounding your heart. Pericarditis often causes chest pain and sometimes other symptoms.

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