Medical Malpractice Story: Lewis Wardlaw Blackman

15-year-old Lewis Wardlaw Blackman died four days afterundergoing surgery in South Carolina to correct a creasein his chest cavity that he had been born with. Nurses andinexperienced residents failed to recognize he was having a fatal set of reactions to a powerful painkiller that had been administered after surgery, never calling for a veteran doctor when the child wasn't producing urine, his temperature dropped, skin grew pale, belly became distended and he suffered unspeakable pain.

Given his symptoms, an experienced doctor would have known to order a routine $30 blood test, which would have shown that the child was bleeding internally. Lewis' family settled out of court with the hospital for $950,000 before filing a lawsuit. The money will go toward scholarships and patient safety initiatives in South Carolina. (Note: A newspaper investigation inspired by Lewis' case resulted in the banning of secret settlements in South Carolina federal courts. The South Carolina Supreme Court has requested a similar ban in state courts, which is now being considered by the state legislature.)

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