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On-call pulmonologist not liable for patient’s death

On Nov. 4, a jury declined to award damages to the family of a woman who died allegedly from an undiagnosed pulmonary embolism. In 2007, Peggy Jones went to an emergency room in Beaumont. The emergency room doctor called the office of Jones’ treating pulmonologist in Houston and reached Dr. Kenneth Lawrence Toppell, who was the pulmonologist on call for Jones’ treater but had had no contact with Jones. After this phone conversation, Jones was treated and released from the emergency room. She came back to the emergency room and was admitted. She died the same day. No autopsy was performed. Toppell contended it was the emergency room doctor’s duty to make any diagnosis. Defense counsel argued she died of an internal hemorrhage leading to heart and lung failure, not a pulmonary embolism.

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