Ascaris Mayo, a 53-year old mother of four, went into the Columbia St. Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in March 2011 for severe abdominal pain, fever, and rapid heartbeat. She was sent home the same day and was told it was a gynecological issue. Her condition worsened and by the next day, she had suffered septic shock that damaged her vascular system and destroyed her four limbs, leading to amputation. Ms. Mayo sued the physician who treated her, Wyatt Jaffe, and his physician's assistant, Donald Gibson, for medical malpractice. While the jury found that the defendants were not negligent, they did find that they failed to provide the patient with "alternative medical diagnoses." The jury verdict totaled $25.3 million, including $15 million for pain and suffering, $1.5 million for Ms. Mayo's husbands loss of companionship, and $8.2 million in past and future health care costs. However, the case will be appealed since Wisconsin state law limits noneconomic damages, such as pain/suffering and loss of companionship, to $750,000. The plaintiff's attorneys will likely challenge the state cap since this case involves severe physical loss.
Interestingly, the crux of the case turned on a state law in place at the time of the injury, in March 2011. Today, however, that state law is different since Governor Scott Walker signed the "informed consent bill." That bill now requires a physician to tell a patient less information about potential diagnoses and treatments, or rather, the physician need only disclose what a reasonable physician would tell a patient - a very subjective requirement that favors protecting physicians sued for medical malpractice. At the time Ms. Mayo was injured, however, this bill did not exist and physicians were required to disclose treatment options that a reasonable patient would want to know - a much broader scope of information than is required to be disclosed today. The law at the time of Ms. Mayo's injury favored her case and the threshold requirements that her attorneys needed to prove were easier to meet. With the change in law, future medical malpractice victims may not be so lucky in receiving the award they are properly due.