New Jersey Lawyers Discuss Comas and Vegetative States Resulting from Malpractice
Most people recognize a coma as a grave condition, one no one would wish to see their loved ones endure. Comatose patients are unconscious, as if they are asleep, but the two states are different in one significant way—awakening from a coma may or may not occur. Comas arise from an injury or illness, typically. However, a medically induced coma is sometimes the medical choice for protecting a patient from worse outcomes. When the inverse happens, meaning when a doctor inadvertently causes a coma, the victim and their family may never fully recover their personal and economic losses. Even a significant malpractice monetary award may provide little solace for the person who loses their personhood. However, the economic recovery can help a family care for their loved one or fulfill the dreams the loved one had for those who loved them.
If your loved one suffered a coma and you suspect their vegetative state may have been the result of medical negligence, the highly experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Fronzuto Law Group can assist you with determining your legal cause of action and filing a lawsuit to recover the financial damages that you and your family deserve. Medical negligence resulting in a comatose state need not go unaccounted for. Whether you lost your loved one and may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, or your loved one is still with you but coping with the devastating medical, personal, and financial costs of a coma, our trained and compassionate New Jersey attorneys are prepared to fight for you.
The Basics of a Coma
Make no mistake about comas. Each is a life-threatening medical emergency requiring immediate attention. Waiting too long can lower the chances of preserving brain health. The effects depend on the severity of the brain injury, which affects whether it lasts or resolves quickly. A coma can come on quickly or slowly and last a few days or months. Most fall somewhere in between. While in a coma, an individual is neither asleep nor awake.
Studies confirm that comatose patients cannot conduct higher brain functioning like thinking, but can continue to breathe, blink, or hear some sounds, all autonomic nervous system functions. Unlike healthy people, an unconscious person cannot respond to outside stimuli. For example, they cannot react to sensory input, such as startling at a loud noise. When due time for healing does not change the person’s condition, the brain functioning may diminish, and the person may be deemed brain dead or in a vegetative state. The chances of a patient re-emerging from that state are slim.
Potential Causes of a Coma
A coma may result from a traumatic brain injury when a person slams their head against a window in a car accident or the ground in a sporting incident, for instance. It can also arise from a medical condition, such as a nervous system disorder or infection. Drug or alcohol abuse and strokes can also bring on a coma. Lack of oxygen to the brain is another leading cause of comas.
Typically, an induced coma follows from a painful event, like a severe concussion that causes swelling in the brain. In addition, drug overdoses and infections may cause inflammation and seizures that warrant an induced coma until the swelling or seizures pass to aid the healing process and alleviate pain.
Those with medical conditions that can lead to a coma may show troubling signs before going into a coma. For instance, a person with diabetes may experience low blood sugar, show excessive carbon dioxide in the blood, and appear drunk. If not treated quickly, they can go into a diabetic coma. Bleeding on the brain from a blow can also cause someone to be unconscious and even permanently brain dead if brain swelling does not subside.
Treatment for a Person in a Comatose State
Treatment consists of first stabilizing a patient who may have trouble breathing. Thereafter, treatment depends on why the person is in a coma. Treating the cause is the most straightforward path to the person’s survival and return to consciousness. To be extra cautious, a medical team will immediately administer glucose if the patient is in a diabetic coma, Narcan in case the cause is drug overdose, or vitamin B1 for alcohol abuse. Maintaining proper blood pressure and adequate breathing is always essential. In some cases in which the patient has swelling on the brain, draining the spinal fluid build-up there can alleviate pressure and speed up healing.
Can You Prevent Someone from Suffering a Coma?
Preventing a coma is the surest way to avoid complications. Therefore, diagnosing a medical condition that possibly results in a coma is critical. Treating high blood pressure to avoid stroke, treating diabetes, monitoring a person’s oxygen levels in surgery, carefully prescribing medications to avoid overdosing someone, performing operations competently to prevent errors during surgery, and calibrating the correct anesthesia level for a patient lessens the odds of a coma. In addition, misdiagnosing the cause of an individual’s coma can lead to the wrong treatment. Further, poor hygiene practices can cause a person in the hospital to contract an infection leading to a coma.
Doctors can also physically examine the patient to run tests on the eyes, looking for reflexes, and in the throat for swallowing and gag reflexes. Blood tests detect drugs, blood sugar, liver enzymes, red blood cell count, electrolytes, and carbon monoxide levels. Infections appear in cerebrospinal fluid extractions, and brain scans show brain injuries. Quick diagnosis is crucial so the patient’s treatment can begin early to avoid complications.
Complications Caused by a Coma
Often, coma complications revolve around a person’s inability to move. Thus, patients may suffer bowel or bladder leakages, bedsores, and pneumonia. In addition, someone in a comatose state cannot blow their nose, clear their throat of phlegm, or clench their abdominals to hold in bowel or bladder movements. Thus, they are prone to complications from the lack of vital functioning and sensory responses.
Potentially Liable Parties for Medical Negligence with a Coma
There are numerous parties who may be liable for medical malpractice causing a person’s coma, failing to prevent it when possible, or negligently caring for a comatose person once the condition has occurred. Besides checking for responsiveness, an emergency responder’s primary responsibility is evaluating the degree of alertness or unconsciousness. Emergency responders know that an unconscious person may need medical assistance like intubation to breathe and avoid asphyxiation.
Once transported to the hospital, a doctor must rely on witnesses to what happened to the patient for diagnosis. Then, a physician can confirm a coma diagnosis by examining responsiveness to stimuli or what would be apparent reactions to a painful injury. However, failure to recognize warning signs of a condition that must be urgently treated to prevent complications that may result in a coma can also constitute malpractice leading to liability for a doctor. Whether it be severely low blood pressure, an illness like meningitis, or lack of oxygen to the brain, all must be diagnosed and treated immediately.
Additionally, for comas induced by medication or those due to other causes, nurses and hospital staff must carefully monitor the patient at all times. A person in a coma may experience a worsening condition or further complications without proper care while unconscious. Other potentially liable parties include surgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists, neurologists, and physician’s assistants.
The person’s specific case and the series of events that occurred before, during, and potentially after a coma must be investigated thoroughly to determine the source of negligence and one or more subjects of liability. Our renowned medical malpractice attorneys comb through medical records, consult with the leading medical experts in relevant fields, and intensively examine all aspects of our clients’ cases to determine and prepare the best course of action.
Recovering Compensation for Coma-Related Malpractice in New Jersey
Medical malpractice coma victims can, and often do not, survive. Some survive with permanent cognitive and physical disabilities. The physical and cognitive therapy that a coma malpractice victim may need is costly and often lifelong. In-home care may also total hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. A person unable to work may lose their ability to provide for their family. A loving spouse, parent, or child may never be the same again. However, those who could be saved from a comatose state and are not due to malpractice have legal rights and options.
Negligence that occurs in the treatment and care of a person in a coma may also give rise to a lawsuit. Beyond that, a loved one’s wrongful death resulting from coma-related negligence may mean their family can sue on their loved one’s behalf. When a doctor, hospital, nurse, or other medical professional makes irreparable mistakes that lead to a coma, fail to prevent one, or allow further complications during a coma, filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can assist a family in recovering much-needed financial resources for their past losses and the road ahead.
Call Fronzuto Law Group Today
If you or your loved one has been a victim of a coma caused by medical negligence, or negligent diagnosis, prevention, or coma treatment, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Fronzuto Law Group in New Jersey to get seasoned legal guidance and assistance with your case. Let us provide you with a free consultation and find out how we may be able to help ease your burden. Call (973)-435-4551 or describe your case here today.