In a recent court case Stubblefield v. Morristown-Hamblen Hospital Association, where a patient underwent a cardiac catheterization procedure and was on a nitroglycerine drip, the patient begged the nurse to stop the nitroglycerine drip because of nausea and headache. The nursing staff refused and continued the drip. The doctor was never notified. It was later discovered that the patient had developed a hematoma and pseudoaneurysm in the groin and had to be taken to surgery to repair her femoral artery, no doubt due to vasodilation of the blood vessel from the nitroglycerine.
The patient brought a lawsuit against the facility and the nurse alleging battery and failure to properly assess the patient’s groin. The Plaintiff had hired a nurse expert witness to say it was below the standard of care to not abide by the patient’s wishes and notify the physician and failing to properly assess the groin area. However, the nurse expert received a phone call threatening that if she testified, she will lose her job.
There was what’s called a summary judgment proceeding which means if the Plaintiff/patient does not have an expert, the case will be dismissed.
Since the nurse expert had to withdraw at the last minute due to threat of loosing her job, they did not have an expert and the judge dismissed the case. However, the Court of Appeals recognized the witness intimidation of the threat to lose her job and sent the case back to the trial court for further review.
The point of this story is that if you are a witness in a medical malpractice case or choose to serve as an expert, it is important to tell the truth and if you feel you are being coerced or threatened or manipulated in any way, tell someone.
These tactics only serve to pollute our criminal justice system which is one of the best in the world. You may or may not agree with malpractice cases but that is why we have our legal system in place for a jury of our peers to decide these issues.
I’m curious as to whether you’ve been subject to witness intimidation and what did you do about it. I’d love to hear your comments below.