HMO Leaves Test Results Unnoticed In File, Patient Dies After Two Major Strokes

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Carol Stephens – Buena Park, CA

As told by her sister, Janet Einwalter:

My sister, Carol Ann Stephens, tragically died from two major stokes, four months after tests that had revealed carotid blockages went unnoticed in her patient file.

After Carol’s initial stroke, a test revealing carotid blockages on both sides of Carol’s neck was placed, unknown to her or her family, in her patient file. The attending HMO physician at the hospital gave no follow-up instructions to Carol regarding the blockages, nor to her HMO primary care doctor. The HMO primary care doctor did not review her file during subsequent medical appointments, thereby not taking notice of, nor acting upon, the carotid test results.

As Carol’s condition deteriorated, an appointment was reluctantly granted with an HMO neurologist. This HMO "specialist" ordered the exact same carotid test that had now been languishing in Carol’s patient file for two months. A subsequent visit with an HMO surgeon resulted in Carol being put on a surgical waiting list as she " was not critical enough to move up on the list."

Four full months after Carol’s initial stroke, an angiogram (which is a dangerous procedure for a patient with carotid blockages as severe as Carol’s) was performed. Within 24 hours, she suffered a catastrophic stroke from which she never recovered.

Carol’s HMO never treated her with the sense of urgency that her condition warranted, and the medical care she was given was substandard.

Patients who have no choice in their employer-paid health care, must have the option of holding their HMO liable for negligence when warranted. They must be able to recover damages against an HMO or insurer when injury or death occurs. Congress must close the ERISA loophole. It would be irresponsible not to do so.

Consumer Watchdog
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