Physician and medical malpractice attorney Deborah Maliver is decidedly of the view that justice delayed in one of her cases will not equate to justice denied.
"The case is going to be the same in six months as it is now, and I look forward to a fair and impartial jury hearing the case then," she told a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this week.
Maliver's comment came in the wake of an Allegheny County judge ordering a continuance in a trial alleging multiple medical errors and wrongdoing against doctors and staff at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital that resulted in the death of a patient in May 2009. A story about the lawsuit appeared in a Post-Gazette article on September 19, which prompted the judge to postpone the trial until at least next March for a "cooling off period."
Fundamentally, the complaint alleges a series of medical errors that caused the death of 62-year-old Samuel Sweet, who was at the hospital for what he was told was a treatable condition that was causing headaches.
Sweet was scheduled for an angiogram. The complaint charges that Sweet's anesthesiologist and attending doctor knew that their patient was difficult to intubate (tube placement into the lungs to ease breathing), but that this critical information was not passed along to other staff providing care following surgery.
Sweet died a few days later, after staff seeking to revive him when he was having trouble breathing failed to use specialized equipment or a trained airway team to intubate him. Moreover, a nurse allegedly dosed him inappropriately with a tranquilizer, which stopped his breathing.
It took more than two years for UPMC to produce relevant "results detail sheets" pertaining to Sweet's electronic medical record. Maliver says that they were altered to reflect that Sweet refused intubation.
"They're trying to blame this man," Maliver said, "that he died because he refused intubation.
Maliver says that the facts are clearly established regarding the malpractice acts and administrative cover up, and that they will emerge once the trial begins, whenever that might be.
"All I'm going to be asking is for a jury to decide what the truth is," she says.
Related Resource: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Trial to begin in wrongful death claim" Sept. 19, 2011
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Judge orders delay in civil trial over Post-Gazette news article" Sept. 20, 2011