Minnesota State SealTo find a medical professional negligent, it must be shown that his or her conduct fell below a reasonable and generally accepted standard of care. According to Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, in medical malpractice lawsuits,“standard of care” refers to the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled healthcare professional (with a similar background and in the same medical community/jurisdiction) would have provided under similar circumstances. The breach of this standard of care is what prompted Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn a previously dismissed malpractice suit in the case of a 36-year old woman who died after receiving a transplanted pancreas riddled with cancer.

Jodie Shierts of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota needed a kidney and pancreas transplant because of renal failure caused by diabetes and received the transplant in March 2007. Five months later, she died of severe sepsis stemming from T-cell lymphoma 5. Her transplant surgeon, Dr. Ty Dunn, did not know that the pancreas was compromised, but failed to thoroughly screen the donor, whose death was originally thought to be from meningitis. This screening omission allegedly caused Mrs. Shierts’ wrongful death, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Dr. Dunn breached the State’s standard of care by accepting the diseased organ for transplant. Doctor mistakes are often a cause of medical malpractice.

The district court’s earlier ruling that Dr. Dunn could not have known that the donor had lymphoma and therefore was not in violation of her standard of care was overturned by the higher court, whose ruling stated that “Negligence is tested by foresight, but proximate cause [of injury] is determined by hindsight.”  Words to heed, notes Berkowitz and Hanna LLC.

Note: Berkowitz and Hanna LLC did not represent any of the parties in this case.

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