A Moultonborough man has filed a medical malpractice suit, claiming his mother suffered a “painful, horrific and unnecessary death” because four different doctors were unable to diagnose that a pill stuck in her throat was burning a hole into her pulmonary artery.
Patricia Putnam, 80, was living at her lakefront retirement home in Moultonborough on March 19, 2015, when she went upstairs. Her husband, Ralph, heard her yell and rushed to help. He found her in the bathroom. She collapsed and died, despite CPR and the quick arrival of the rescue squad.
The lawsuit asserts that the state’s chief medical examiner ruled she died as a result of “erosion of the right mainstem bronchus by an aspirated pill resulting in a bronchopulmonary fistula with fatal hemoptysis.”
“Essentially Mrs. Putnam drowned in her own blood when the aspirated pill burned through tissue and created a pathway between a major airway and her pulmonary artery,” wrote Attorney Kevin Durgan of Manchester.
As the litigation was only recently filed, the defendants have not yet had a chance to respond to the allegations.
According to the lawsuit, Putnam’s troubles began on Feb. 27, 2015, when she took her daily medications and felt one of the pills go down the wrong way. Her husband called the Laconia Clinic, his wife’s primary care office, the same day, and reported that she had coughed for a long time and was experiencing shortness of breath. He was told to bring her to the emergency room.
She was evaluated by Scott who ordered X-rays of her chest and neck. The plaintiff claims Scott concluded she was status post-choking and discharged her home with the recommendations she stay on soft food for one or two days until better.
Three days later Putnam returned to the ER reporting she had been coughing and wheezing. She was seen by Kallmerten who ordered a chest X-ray which was reported normal.
The suit contends that he ultimately concluded that she was experiencing an exacerbation of COPD and sent her home with codeine cough medicine and prednisone.
On March 3, Putnam spoke with a nurse at the clinic and explained she was calling because she had been instructed to follow up with her primary care provider.
During that appointment on March 5, Maharaj noted that the pills Putnam had taken on Feb. 27 were iron, amlodipine, simvastatin, solate and oscal.
After examining her, Maharaj ordered chest X-rays, started Putnam on an antibiotic, continued her prednisone and planned for her to consult with a surgeon “to see if she needs endoscopy, (as) it could be chemical pneumonitis.”
Later that day, Maharaj reviewed the chest X-ray, which described a potential sign of an infection or tumor. She called Putnam and suggested she cancel the recommended consultation with a surgeon, and instead make an appointment with pulmonology.
On March 13, Putnam was seen by Deery, a pulmonologist. Deery found that Putnam was still coughing and wheezing, and was having trouble swallowing. Putnam told her she had been unable to sleep for the past two weeks.
The suit alleges Deery diagnosed her with a cough, and concluded it was unlikely she still had a foreign body in her airway. She recommended that she continue prednisone, add cough syrup, stop taking antibiotics and increase her acid suppression medication.
The doctor’s documented contingency plan, according to the suit, would be a CT scan of the chest to look for bronchiectasis or aspiration. She planned to see Putnam in two weeks.
On March 19, Putnam called Deery’s office at 10:20 a.m. to report she was not feeling any better. Having not heard back from Deery she called Maharaj’s office at 3:40 p.m. to see if they could help.
Maharaj asked her staff to find out what type of symptoms were bothering Putnam.
She died just hours later.
The suit filed by Putnam’s son, Kenneth Putnam, claims that as a result of the defendants’ deviations from the standards of care, his mother’s condition went undiagnosed and untreated, resulting in her death.
In accordance with state law, once the lawsuit was filed, a copy was sent to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine.
The board is authorized to impose disciplinary sanctions that may range in severity from a public reprimand to the revocation of their license to practice medicine.
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