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Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice is one of the most difficult and time consuming areas of law that an attorney can practice. 

Maxwell Graham, P.S. is well suited to prosecute medical malpractice cases.


ACTUAL CASE

Jesse E. was a healthy young man whose life dream was to climb Mt. Everest. While he was training to climb, he read that there are diseases that can affect people at high altitude. These include high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) which is a swelling of the brain. Another dreaded illness is high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) which is when the lungs fill with water. Jesse consulted with his family doctor in Tukwila, WA and told him that he needed medications for altitude on Everest.

Little did Jesse know that his doctor had no familiarity with high altitude emergency medicine. His doctor confused the medications and provided Jesse a prescription for 90 pills of dexamethasone and for an additional 30 vials of dexamethasone. Jesse’s doctor told him to start taking the pills three per day starting 30 days prior to the summit; if more were needed, Jesse could use the vials with a syringe.

Dexamethasone is a potent steroid. According to all the medical literature, it should only be given in cases of emergency HACE to aid a trekker descend. No more than two pills should be administered and those should only be administered by an expedition leader. The expedition leader should consult with a physician at base camp prior to giving an injured trekker dexamethasone.

Jesse followed his doctor’s instructions and took three pills of dexamethasone per day. Over the next few weeks he started to develop a rash over his back, chest and arms and started gaining weight. He then experienced personality changes which included anxiety and short temper. He even started to develop a hump on his back. He continued to push on, however, making it to Camp 1, Camp 2, and Camp 3. Shortly before the push to the summit, Jesse started to vomit and defecate blood. He consulted with an Austrian doctor who told him that taking the steroids would cause him to build and immunity and that if he really developed HACE at the summit, he would not be able to take advantage of the medication.

Jesse then stopped taking the steroids, although he had taken nearly all of the 90 pills. His adrenals crashed and he started to experience steroid psychosis. He wandered into the emergency room tent at Everest Base Camp where the on staff physicians immediately recognized that something was wrong. When they asked him whether he had been taking medications he showed them the nearly empty pill bottle. Immediately they recognized that this was a life threatening situation and they called for a helicopter to rescue Jesse and take him to a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. The last thing that the doctors told Jesse as he was loaded onto the helicopter was “when you get back to Seattle, make sure that you hire a good lawyer to sue the doctor who did this to you.”

Jesse was taken to a medical clinic and released and spent the night in a hotel. That night, he became delirious and started vomiting blood again and nearly died. He was rushed to a hospital and spent three weeks in the intensive care unit. A doctor came to Nepal from New Delhi to accompany Jesse on the airplane trip to Seattle.

In Seattle, attorney Michael Maxwell sued the doctor who originally prescribed the dexamethasone to Jesse. Attorney Maxwell also sued the doctor’s practice. The doctor and his practice settled out of court, rather than taking the case to trial.

Jesse’s case became a notorious case in the high altitude community, and the doctor’s conduct became an example of how to not practice high altitude emergency medicine. Outside Magazine interviewed Mr. Maxwell and featured Jesse’s story in its April, 2013 edition. The article is about drugs on Everest, and it is called “Climbing’s Little Helper.” Read article online here.

Download PDF version of Climbing’s Little Helper here.

Jesse’s case was also written up in a medical journal: Complications of Steroid Use on Mount Everest.

Download and read the article here

If you or your loved on was injured by your doctor, please consider retaining Maxwell Graham, P.S. Please feel free to contact us at (206) 527-2000.

 

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