A gastroenterologist is a physician who specializes in and treats diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, or digestive system. Some gastroenterologists treat all common diseases of the gastrointestinal tract while others primarily focus exclusively on a specific area within gastroenterology. Predominant and common areas of focus include hepatology, pancreatic disease, transplantation, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal cancer, endoscopic surveillance, and reflux esophagitis. The gastrointestinal tract primarily serves the purpose of digesting and moving food, absorbing nutrients, and removing waste from the body and is made up of the pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, salivary glands, tongue, epiglottis, rectum, and anus. The gastrointestinal system also includes the mouth; however, dentists and dental specialists generally provide care for conditions of the mouth rather than gastroenterologists.
Our lawyers bring medical malpractice claims against gastroenterologists who breach the standard of care when treating a patient and the results in serious harm on death. This page talks about the nature of malpractice claims against these physicians, their settlement value, and what victims can expect when bringing these lawsuits.Gastroenterologists Education
Like any other medical doctor, gastroenterologists first have to obtain a Medical Degree that generally takes four years to complete after a four year college degree. Following graduation from medical school, an aspiring gastroenterologist then has to complete a three year residency in internal medicine.
After completion of an internal medicine residency, a two to three year gastroenterology fellowship must also be completed where the physician acquires specialized training specific to gastroenterology. Lastly, after the residency and fellowship are completed, there is a required specialty certification exam for gastroenterologists and once you pass it, the American Board of Internal Medicine will certify you as a licensed gastroenterologist.What Does a Gastroenterologist do?
Gastroenterologists are specialized physicians who predominantly work in hospitals and clinics, but they do not perform surgery. Gastroenterology focuses on diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. A gastroenterologist will also perform endoscopic procedures where specialized instruments are used to look into the gastrointestinal tract and make diagnoses. In situations where surgery is necessary, a gastroenterologist will refer the patient to a gastrointestinal surgeon who will perform the procedure.
There are a number of conditions gastroenterologists treat, but they all are conditions that affect the gastrointestinal system. Some of the main conditions treated are acid reflux, ulcers, IBS, hepatitis C, polyps/growths in the intestines, jaundice, hemorrhoids, bloody stool, pancreatitis, and colon cancer.
In diagnosing and treating the above conditions, gastroenterologists may perform a number of nonsurgical procedures. They may perform endoscopic ultrasounds, which are used to take a look at the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract as well as other organs. Colon cancer and colon polyps can be detected when a gastroenterologist performs a colonoscopy. Additionally, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography may be performed to detect and diagnose gallstones, tumors, or scar tissue within the bile duct area. Sigmoidoscopies are another procedure commonly performed and are used to assess pain and/or blood loss in the bowel. Lastly, inflammation and fibrosis in the liver may be assessed by performing liver biopsies while capsule endoscopies and double balloon enteroscopies may be used to look at the small intestine.
While it is hard to know when you should see a gastroenterologist, signs such as having blood in your stool, difficulty swallowing, and abdominal pain are all common signs that you may be experiencing some type of gastrointestinal condition. Additionally, men and women older than 50 years old are at increased risks of developing colon cancer which can be increased even more when you have relatives with colon cancer. The best thing to do is to see a gastroenterologist and get screened regularly and acquire preventative care.Malpractice Claims Against Gastroenterologists
Gastroenterologists are responsible, like any other doctor, to exercise the degree of care and skill that an ordinary gastroenterologist should use given the circumstances. Medical malpractice occurs when the gastroenterologist deviates from the standard of care and as a result, the patient suffers an injury. A gastroenterologist may be found liable for medical malpractice if they fail to detect and diagnose a gastrointestinal disease; they incorrectly treat a gastrointestinal disease, or make a mistake that results in injury while performing a gastrointestinal procedure.
In our firm's experience, gastroenterologists are not common defendants in medical malpractice cases. Current medical malpractice statistics definitely support this conclusion. A recent American Medical Association study of malpractice rates among medical specialties confirms that gastroenterology is a comparatively low-risk specialty. Only 1% of all paid medical malpractice claims included in the AMA study were attributed to gastroenterologists. The malpractice risk rate for gastroenterologists (measured by the number of paid malpractice claims per 1,000 doctors) is 15.8. This ranks gastroenterology 15th out of 25 but far behind the higher risk specialties.Gastroenterologist Verdicts and Settlements
Summarized below are recent verdicts and reported settlements from medical malpractice cases involving gastroenterologists. Average jury verdict information and stories of other settlements and verdicts can be helpful in understand the range of potential values you case. But they cannot alone predict the value of your claim.
- Minor v Gastroenterologist (Massachusetts 2018) $750,000: 12-year-old male plaintiff suffered from Crohn's disease and was under care of defendant gastroenterologist when he developed a perianal abscess. Gastroenterologist sent him to a surgeon to drain the abscess but a fistula had developed leaving a large wound after the surgery that was slow to heal despite several follow-up surgeries. Gastroenterologist wanted to use medication for Crohn's disease patients called Remicade to help the wound heal properly, but he failed to communicate with the surgeon and the medication was never prescribed. The open wound remained for months afterwards until parents went to another gastroenterologist who immediately started the child on the Remicade medication and the wound healed immediately. They sued the gastroenterologist for negligent treatment in failing to prescribe the needed medication causing the child to suffer with open wound for nearly 10 months. Case was resolved in arbitration for $750k.
- Radzik v. Children's Medical Center (Connecticut 2017) $6.8 million: This case involves a wrongful death action for medication error brought on behalf of a 13-year-old boy by who was being treated for Crohn's Disease by a gastroenterologist employed by the defendant hospital. The gastroenterologist treated the plaintiff's son with two different drugs, Remicade and Imuran, but failed to inform them that the drugs had been known to be associated with increased risks of developing cancer. The plaintiff's son used these two drugs for five years until he developed lymphoma and tragically died. The parents then brought this wrongful death action alleging the hospital and gastroenterologist were negligent in failing to disclose the risks associated with the medications prescribed to their son. Had they known the cancer risks they would not have elected to undergo the treatment and their son may not have developed lymphoma. The defendants denied all liability and the case went to trial where the jury returned a verdict to the plaintiffs for $6.8 million.
- R.J. v. Ahmadinia (California 2017) $3.5 million: A gastroenterologist, obstetrician, and radiologist are all overseeing care of pregnant mother at 26 weeks gestation. The defendants fail to diagnose the mother with a bowel obstruction and as a result, the baby has to be delivered prematurely. Because of the defendant's failure to correctly diagnose the mother, birth complications arise during the delivery and the baby suffers an intraventricular hemorrhage and periventricular leukomalacia leading to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. This medical malpractice action was then later brought against the gastroenterologist, radiologist, and obstetrician alleging negligence in their care of her mother and their failing to correctly diagnose her bowel obstruction that caused the birth complications resulting in her cerebral palsy. The case did not go to trial, but rather the parties settled for $3.5 million.
- Patient v. Gastroenterologist (Massachusetts 2017) $2.5 million: A 55-year-old man is seeking treatment from a primary care physician and a gastroenterologist for hepatitis B. As part of his treatment plan, his liver enzymes are to be measured every 6-12 months as well as other tests. He has blood work done that indicates an increase in the AFP tumor marker, an indicator of cancer, and a CT scan is ordered to further investigate but never actually performed. During the next 6-12 month interval of his treatment, the AFP marker is significantly increased and a CT scan and ultrasound are finally performed. Unfortunately, these tests determine that he has a very large, inoperable mass on his liver that has also metastasized. He is diagnosed with liver cancer and then files this medical malpractice action against the primary care physician and the gastroenterologist. Specifically, he alleges they were negligent in failing to diagnose his cancer in a reasonable timeframe and as a result to the delayed diagnosis, he has a significantly decreased chance of survival. Defendants denied any liability, however, the case did not end up going to trial and the parties agreed to settle for $2.5 million.
- Stern v. Heller (Maryland 2015) $28.3 million: An adult male has dormant Crohn's disease and a pre-existing, undiscovered duodenal ulcer. The gastroenterologist fails to diagnose his duodenal ulcer and rather misdiagnoses him which results in multiple hospitalizations as well as surgeries that would not have been needed had he been diagnosed correctly. As a result of these hospitalizations and surgeries, his Crohn's disease flares up and his duodenal ulcer becomes perforated, which is a condition where the ulcer burns through the walls of the stomach and the stomach fills with acids from the digestive tract. He brings this medical malpractice action against the gastroenterologist alleging he was negligent in failing to diagnose him correctly and failing to perform an upper endoscopy that would have easily detected the ulcer and prevented it from perforating. The case goes to trial and the jury find the gastroenterologist liable and returns a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $28,374,193 including damages for pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, and loss of consortium.
- Doe v. Gastroenterologist (Massachusetts 2010) $4 million: Man in his late 50s goes in for a routine colonoscopy. After the procedure, everything seems to have gone well; however, he soon develops penetrating abdominal and shoulder pain. Due to the excessive pain, he goes to the emergency room where he is seen by a gastroenterologist who performs x-rays and nothing abnormal is found. He is kept in the hospital and put on narcotics to help with the pain while he awaits a CT-scan scheduled for the next morning. His condition becomes increasingly worse, and while he was being prepared for the CT-scan, he goes into cardiac arrest. It was discovered that he suffered severe internal bleeding that resulted from a ruptured spleen caused by the colonoscopy he had done a few days prior. The bleeding and arrest were so severe that he suffers a significant deprivation of oxygen that causes a fatal brain injury. A wrongful death action was brought alleging that the gastroenterologist who performed the colonoscopy was negligent in failing to detect the ruptured spleen during or after the procedure. The gastroenterologist in the emergency department was also allegedly negligent in failing to timely diagnose the ruptured spleen and internal bleeding that caused him to go into cardiac arrest and sustain fatal brain damage.
In 2017 a malpractice lawsuit was filed against a gastroenterologist in Howard County alleging that he negligently performed an endoscopic retrograde cholangiography (ERCP) causing necrotizing pancreatitis.Colonoscopy Malpractice in Montgomery County Unnecessary Pancreatectomy
Gastroenterologist was involved misdiagnosing a man with pancreatitis which ultimately led to the unnecessary pancreatectomy procedure. A malpractice suit was filed in January 2017 in Baltimore City.Other Gastroenterology Malpractice Topics Colonoscopy Malpractice
Colonoscopies are a very common diagnostic procedure that are generally performed by gastroenterologists. Most colonoscopies are uneventful, but they sometimes cause serious injuries such as bowel or colon perforation and splenic rupture. Many colonoscopy injures are the result of medical negligence by a gastroenterologist.ERCP Malpractice
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a diagnostic procedure used to find and treat conditions involving the bile duct, liver, gallbladder and pancreatic duct. ERCPs are usually performed by gastroenterologists and can result in malpractice claims.Contact Miller & Zois About Gastroenterologists Malpractice If you have a potential medical malpractice claim against a gastroenterologist, Miller & Zois can help. Call us today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.