Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Medical Identity Thief Dies in Hospital and His Family Sues

When a person obtains healthcare under the medical identity of another person should he be allowed to sue for malpractice?

A person going by the name "James Daniels" dies after heart surgery at a Milwaukee Hospital. His family threatens to sue the hospital. But there is a twist in this tale - medical identity theft - the person who died was actually Manquis Daniels using his brother James' insurance to secure care.
"...the fraudulent use of someone's medical identity puts the individual who stole that identity at risk of being improperly treated." - Kathleen Schmitz, hospital spokeswoman
Jim Sting at the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel could not get the family to answer phone calls, but he discovered these details from the report of the Milwaukee County medical examiner's office.
The deceased was reportedly a smoker with high blood pressure who recently learned he had severe coronary artery disease. A "ticking time bomb" is what doctors called him, according to the wife's statement.

After the deceased underwent surgery, while recovering in the ICU his blood pressure dropped due to bleeding in the coronary artery. The bleeding was stopped, but due to lack of oxygen he suffered brain damage and was pronounced dead three days later.
The family claims mistakes were made and the hospital claims its investigation found no evidence of improper care.

One interesting point was made by a reader in the comments section for this story in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:
"The patient's identity theft may -- *may* -- possibly have contributed to his own death. By pretending to be his brother, he told the hospital to look at his brother's medical records, not his own. So ... anything that might have given the staff advance warnings of what would happen that day -- he withheld from them, and gave them his brother's."
What do you think? Please feel free to post your thoughts and comments.

For more information on this incident see:
(a) Potential St. Mary's lawsuit complicated by patient's identity theft - Jim Stingl, Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, June 25, 2011
(b) Readers comments on the story "Potential St. Mary's lawsuit complicated by patient's identity theft" - Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, June 25, 2011

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