When a patient presented with telltale symptoms of COVID-19 last fall, the physician assistant did the responsible thing and ordered a test. It came back positive. The patient died 3 weeks later, and now the man’s family is suing both the PA, the supervising physician, and the practice, alleging that their husband’s and father’s demise was due to inadequate care. First, the family claims that clinicians did not warn the patient that he was at high risk for COVID-19 because his wife (who was treated successfully at the same practice) had recently recovered from the virus. Further, they take exception to the fact that the patient received a blood test (not a nasal swab test) for COVID-19, which had to be sent offsite to a larger facility in another state, thereby delaying diagnosis. By the time the results were in, the man’s condition had worsened. The physician then prescribed a muscle relaxant for his symptoms, which the family’s attorney claims exacerbated the COVID-19 infection and caused adverse reactions that ultimately caused the man’s death from bacterial pneumonia, sepsis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, and heart failure. While the defendants have not yet responded to the claim, according to local media reports, and it will be some time before the matter is settled on way or another, the case is a reminder that all decisions, down to which variety of a test is ordered, should be in response to demonstrable rationale. Outside of providing excellent care (including thorough discussion with patients regarding risk for serious illness), maintaining airtight records and robust data collection, as well as reliance on current relevant guidelines, are the best defense against claims that patients have suffered due to poor care.

A Patient Died from COVID-19—and the Family is Suing the Doctor and PA Who Treated Him