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Woman says medical malpractice caused husband's death

When a New Jersey resident needs the services of either an ambulance or a medical helicopter, an assumption is often made that it is kept stocked with the equipment and materials necessary to sustain life until arrival at a hospital. Most emergency personnel are diligent in keeping their vehicles ready to handle any emergency. However, an out-of-state woman claims in a medical malpractice suit that a medical helicopter company failed to ensure it had the proper equipment on board when transporting her husband.

The man went to the emergency room at a hospital in his area on Jan. 8 due to breathing problems and a fever. After an examination, the decision was made that he needed to be transferred to another hospital where he could receive more care than the local hospital could provide. The attending physician ordered oxygen for the patient en route.

The helicopter left Artesia, New Mexico, and had to stop in Roswell for fuel. Within a half an hour of leaving Roswell, helicopter personnel realized they were out of oxygen. Arrangements were made to obtain more, but by the time they landed, the patient had suffered sudden cardiac death. His wife contends that the helicopter should have made sure it had enough oxygen for the trip -- especially since the physician at the hospital in Artesia had ordered it.

The medical malpractice claim against the medical helicopter service seeks not only compensatory damages but also punitive damages. As would be the case here in New Jersey, it is up to the court to decide whether the helicopter company breached its duty of care to the woman's husband because allegedly no one had checked to be sure there was enough oxygen for the trip. An award of damages in this case could help prevent another patient from experiencing the same fate.

Source:, "Lawsuit: Man died after medical transport service ran out of oxygen", Phaedra Haywood, Dec. 6, 2014

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