A Twist on Medical Malpractice

Now here’s something you don’t hear every day–a patient and his medical provider filed a lawsuit against a medical device manufacturer. The patient, Paramjit Singh, was undergoing heart bypass surgery in 2004 at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, WA, when a catheter in his right ventricle malfunctioned.

The device overheated, and as a result, cooked and irreparably destroyed the ventricle. Surgeons were focused on another part of the heart and thus were unaware of the damage until the end of the surgery. Doctors were able to insert a mini artificial heart but believed the patient would probably die within a few hours.

Singh managed to survive but the road to recovery has been long and painful and incomplete. After three days in critical care, Singh moved to the University of Washington Medical Center, where he waited 11 weeks for a heart transplant. During that time machinery kept him alive. The heart transplant was successful, but Singh must take several dozen pills every day, and he has battled numerous medical setbacks. Singh will never be able to return to his former life.

Singh and Providence sued the device manufacturer, and in May 2008 Singh was awarded $41.1 million.Providence chose to use part of their settlement proceeds to establish a $2.18 million fund devoted to improving patient safety. It was named Singh Family Fund for Patient Safety and Quality in Singh’s honor. The aim of the fund is to provide training and programs to reduce medical errors and promote safety.