Lawrenceville, GA— Attorneys debated whether a nurse practitioner and her supervising doctor were responsible for a Georgia woman’s death, hours after she was discharged from a hospital emergency department, as trial opened Tuesday against the two health care providers. Arnold v. Lee et al., 17-C-07323-S2.
Connie Arnold, 61, died less than three hours after she was discharged from a Monroe, Georgia hospital’s emergency department. Paramedics had taken Arnold to the facility earlier that day after she complained of sharp, ongoing chest pain. Her daughter, Keisha Arnold, says nurse practitioner Youn Lee and her supervising physician Dr. Eric Deal failed to properly treat Arnold for a heart attack that ultimately turned fatal.
During Tuesday’s openings, Morgan & Morgan’s Keenan Nix told jurors Arnold had tell-tale symptoms of acute coronary syndrome, or ACS, including chest pain and elevated troponin levels in the blood. But he said Lee and Deal failed to respond properly to the emergency, calling in Arnold’s primary care physician rather than a specialist, before Arnold was discharged with a diagnosis of musculoskeletal pain.
“The tragic truth in this case is that Connie Arnold never lives to see her 62nd birthday. Connie Arnold didn’t live to see another day,” Nix said. “Because the doctors who had her heart in their hands failed to do their job when Connie Arnold needed them the most.”
But the defense argues that the health care providers followed the appropriate standard of care in working through Arnold’s symptoms.
During Tuesday’s openings, Lee’s attorney, Brinson Askew’s Stephen Moseley, told jurors Arnold’s complaints matched a wide range of possible health issues. He said Lee properly examined Arnold and considered ACS unlikely before the decision was made to call in Arnold’s primary care physician. That primary care doctor, Moseley said, diagnosed Arnold with musculoskeletal pain before ordering her discharge.
“Reasonable care was provided,” Moseley said. “And unfortunately no one could predict what was going to happen two hours later.”
Deal’s attorney, Huff Powell Bailey’s Michael Frankson, agreed, telling jurors that Arnold’s symptoms did not match ACS. Frankson noted that Arnold’s troponin levels did not rise across two blood tests, and her chest pain did not mirror what is typically experienced during a coronary event.
“All you’re going to hear in this trial from the plaintiffs is ‘chest pain, heart attack, chest pain, heart attack.’ That is hindsight,” Frankson said. The evidence will be that chest pain is a common complaint that these providers have to work through by… reasonably assessing all of the information.”
Trial is expected to last through the week. Neither Arnold's primary care physician nor the hospital at which she was treated are defendants at trial.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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