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NEW: RI Doctor Found Guilty of Malpractice in Patient’s Death

Monday, December 17, 2012

 

An ER physician at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in Providence has been found to have committed malpractice in his treatment of a patient at the hospital in 2009, according to the RI Dept. of Health.

An East Greenwich internal medicine physician has been named guilty of malpractice after having underestimated the severity of a patient's condition who later died, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH).

Joseph P. Turner, DO, was the attending physician at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in Providence on March 23, 2009, when a 56 year old male patient arrived, complaining of severe lower abdominal pain of "ten on a scale of ten." The patient had undergone elective gallbladder removal a week earlier on March 16.

Chronology of events

A Nurse Practitioner had prescribed 2 doses of intravenous Dilaudid for the patient's pain and Zofran. The Nurse Practitioner's notes also indicated that the "findings represent ileum, enteritis, or small bowel obstruction," and advised follow-up.

The Nurse Practitioner also spoke with the patient's surgeon, who "felt the laboratory work was not alarming," and given that the patient's abdomen had no free air, the surgeon advised that no CT scan should be done and that the patient should be discharged for follow-up in 48 hours. Dr. Turner reviewed the case and confirmed via his own exam that there was no tenderness in the area and was assured the patient would follow up with his surgeon.

The patient was discharged at 9:37pm that night. The following day, March 24, the surgeon was in the hospital and reviewed the ER record and x-ray film from the night before and was satisfied with the decision for follow-up.

But on March 25, the patient's wife contacted the surgeon to say her husband wasn't doing well, citing constipation. The surgeon advised changing narcotic medication to over-the-counter analgesics and confirmed the March 26th appointment. Later that night, at 3am on the morning of March 26, the patient arrived by rescue at another hospital and died an hour after admission.

The cause of death, according to the Medical Examiner's report, was postoperative peritonitis following the patient's surgery.

Subsequent investigation by the Board's expert case reviewer found that both Turner as well as the surgeon "overlooked important clinical findings" in light of the patient's recent surgery. In summary, he felt that "the patient had too many alarming findings to have been discharged on March 23."

Turner was reprimanded by the Board and will remain on probation for 5 years. He has also been fined $500 to repay the costs associated with his investigation.

 

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