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Jury awards $1M in teen's death at Heart of Florida Hospital

A Kissimmee, Florida, cardiologist has been found negligent in the death of a 19-year-old girl in 2007. He has been ordered to pay $1 million in damages for pain and suffering, and to cover her funeral expenses of over $6,700.

The lawsuit filed by the teen's mother, who lives in Haines City, alleged that the doctor injected her daughter with a lethal overdose of potassium. The young woman died the day after she was admitted to Heart of Florida Hospital in August 2007 after complaining of symptoms including dizziness and fever.

The plaintiff contended that the doctor mistakenly looked at old test results that indicated the teen needed potassium to balance her electrolytes. In reality, her potassium levels had returned to normal. Therefore the injection of potassium, which can be fatal in high doses, killed her. In fact, when death row prisoners are killed by lethal injection, potassium is the substance used to execute them.

The Polk County jury that heard the case deliberated for nine hours, but reached a unanimous decision. The plaintiff's attorney said that his client was grateful for the work by the jury, who deliberated until late at night, on behalf of her daughter. The young woman, a graduate of Haines City High School, had been a lifeguard at one of the resorts in Orlando until she was diagnosed with adult-onset Still's disease. This is a form of arthritis that caused her to have joint pain. When she could no longer work as a lifeguard, she became a reservations agent at the resort.

Sometimes when a loved one dies, it can be difficult to know whether it is a case of medical malpractice. People who are not medical professionals generally have to trust what they are told by the physician and other health care providers. However, when someone dies suddenly in a hospital, particularly when the person is young and generally in good health, family members should not be afraid to ask questions, and find out precisely what happened. Even if it was not a case of malpractice, it is important to know if there was an underlying cause that could be genetic. It is also important for the family's peace of mind.

Source: The Ledger, "Doctor Found Negligent for Death of Haines City Woman" Jason Geary, Sep. 12, 2013

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