Doctor to blame for mother's problems, suit claims

By Cara Bailey | May 12, 2008

CHARLESTON - A Logan County woman has filed a medical malpractice suit against the physician who treated her mother, claiming she failed to properly diagnose and treat her.

Stephanie Dillon filed the suit April 15 in Kanawha Circuit Court on behalf of Patricia Adkins. The suit is against Elma Z. Bernardo. M.D. Dillon was appointed her mother's conservator and guardian in June 2007.

In 2003, Bernardo diagnosed Adkins with bipolar disorder type 2, mixed mood state. Adkins was prescribed anti-depression and anxiety medications.

According to the suit, Adkins health continued to decline, which Dillon claims is a result of Bernardo's failure to accurately monitor and treat Adkins.

On Feb. 2, 2006, Bernardo, who was allegedly aware of Adkins' medical history of abnormal kidney function and abnormal cardiac studies, prescribed lithium, but failed to order a lithium level test two weeks after starting the drug, in violation of the appropriate standard of medical and psychiatric care, the suit says.

Adkins was admitted to Logan Regional Medical Center on Feb. 20, 2006, for altered mental status, including confusion, disorientation and violent behavior for two days. According to the suit, the blood lithium level was more than four times the therapeutic amount, indicating lithium toxicity.

The suit also says Adkins' kidney function tests were abnormal, indicating acute renal failure. She was transferred to St. Mary's Medical Center on Feb. 23, 2006.

Adkins was then transferred to a nursing home. Since her lithium overdose, she has experienced expressive language deficiency, loss of coordination, aphasia and expressive aphasia, seizure disorder, confusion, acute and chronic renal failure, dehydration, chronic shoulder pain and numbness in her hands.

According to the suit, Adkins would have experienced the problems from the lithium if Bernardo had not prescribed it.

Dillon claims she and Adkins have suffered from medical expenses, loss of enjoyment of life, companionship, comfort and consortium, and other damages.

They seek compensatory and punitive damages.

Attorney Robert B. Warner is representing Dillon. The case has been assigned to Judge Irene Berger.

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