When you go to a health care provider, you expect that he or she will look at your medical history, and the medications that you are taking, then consider those factors in the treatment you are prescribed. One Missouri woman discovered the hard way that this is not always the case.

When you are faced with a confusing medical problem, learn from her experience and always seek a second opinion if your treatment isn’t helping.

From Antidepressants to a Near-Death Experience

Sherry Huelskamp visited a nurse practitioner after experiencing depression in November 2008. Little did she know that six weeks later, she would be clinging to life as a result of continued medical malpractice.

Ms. Huelskamp was prescribed an antidepressant called Lamictal, which may cause skin rashes as a side effect. If Lamictal is continued after a rash develops, the drug can cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome, an often fatal autoimmune reaction.

Two weeks after she was prescribed the Lamictal, Ms. Huelskamp began seeing a different nurse practitioner, Barbara King, for her high blood pressure. On Nov. 24, 2008, Ms. Huelskamp visited Nurse King complaining of body aches, and was prescribed Amoxicillin as an antibiotic. Nurse King admitted that she knew Ms. Huelskamp was taking Lamictal, but she did not know much about the medication and did not look up the side effects.

On Dec. 4, 2008, ten days after the amoxicillin was prescribed, Ms. Huelskamp saw Nurse King again, with complaints of a rash. Nurse King told her that the rash was medication related, and advised her to stop taking the amoxicillin. She still did not research the side effects of Lamictal, and did not tell Ms. Huelskampto stop taking that drug.

Six days later, on Dec. 10, Ms. Huelskamp was back to see Nurse King after the rash worsened. Nurse King prescribed medication to treat the rash, and sent her home. On Dec. 12, Ms. Huelskamp saw Nurse King again, and the rash had gotten progressively worse. Nurse King recommended that Ms. Huelskamp see a dermatologist, and she went to see Dr. Jason Reinberg the same day.

Dr. Reinberg examined Ms. Huelskamp’s rash and the list of medications that she was taking, and told her to immediately discontinue the Lamictal because of its known relationship with rashes and Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

Just two days later, Ms. Huelskamp was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which then progressed to Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis. She remained in the hospital for three weeks. The Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis spread to 98% of her body, causing her skin to turn black and detach from the lower layers of her dermis. Luckily, Ms. Huelskamp survived and was eventually released from the hospital.

Medical Malpractice: Was Ms. Huelskamp to Blame?

Ms. Huelskamp filed a medical malpractice suit against Nurse King. She alleged that if Nurse King had looked at the medications that she was taking, and had directed her to stop taking Lamictal on Dec. 4, then she would not have suffered through her excruciatingly traumatic experience. A jury agreed and awarded Ms. Huelskamp $525,000 for her malpractice claim.

[T]he “ultimate issue” was whether Nurse King’s actions directly caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injury.

Nurse King appealed the judgment and argued that she was not to blame for Ms. Huelskamp’s injuries. Nurse King argued that had Ms. Huelskamp called the nurse who prescribed the Lamictal when she developed the rash, then that nurse would have advised her to stop taking the drug. She also argued that Ms. Huelskamp was in the best position to know that she should have stopped taking Lamictal because of the warnings she might have received when she began the medication.

The Missouri Court of Appeals disagreed. The Court found that a plaintiff like Ms. Huelskamp cannot be held to the same standards as a health care provider, even if the patient does have some information about her own condition. The evidence showed that she was unaware that the Lamictal could cause the rash, and that if Nurse King had advised Ms. Huelskamp to stop taking the Lamictal, she likely would have done so.

In making its decision, the Court of Appeals found that the “ultimate issue” was whether Nurse King’s actions directly caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injury. Two doctors testified that had Nurse King advised Ms. Huelskamp to stop taking Lamictal on Dec. 4, she would not have developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

As a result, the jury found Nurse King responsible and rejected the idea that Ms. Huelskamp should have known that the Lamictal caused her rash and should have decided to stop taking the medication on her own. The Court of Appeals upheld the jury verdict, and Ms. Huelskamp will receive the money she needs to pay for her medical treatments and compensate her for her pain and suffering.

Injured by Medical Malpractice? Don’t Suffer in Silence

At Peterson & Associates, we work tirelessly for the victims of medical malpractice. If you have been injured by a health care provider that you trusted with your health, you deserve compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to have your claim reviewed for free.