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Women Heart Attacks Medical Malpractice

Yes! She’s having a heart attack, and it could lead to a medical malpractice suit

Steven E. North, Esq. and Laurence M. Deutsch, Esq.


Furthermore, a woman’s warning symptoms may vary from those typically associated with men. The crushing chest pain with radiation down the left arm which is a known classic symptom is not as common in women, whose complaints may be more subtle.

Yes, women have heart attacks too. In fact, according to a 2014 CDC report, heart disease is the single biggest killer of women in the U.S., a statistic that, of course, includes heart attacks. Nevertheless, there still exists a bias in the medical world that men are the primary sufferers, which results in less attention being given to women’s symptoms in the ER, particularly when the patient is young.

When I prosecuted a medical malpractice case involving a young woman who had a heart attack, the most difficult obstacle I faced was the traditional medical school argument: “When you hear hoof beats, think of horses, not zebras.” And, yes, It may be said that a heart attack in a 21-year-old girl is more like a zebra than a horse.

If the classic symptoms present and the lab tests so warrant, it is important that efforts be made to rule out a heart attack before the patient is discharged from the hospital.

Furthermore, a woman’s warning symptoms may vary from those typically associated with men. The crushing chest pain with radiation down the left arm which is a known classic symptom is not as common in women, whose complaints may be more subtle.

An article recently published in Webmed, an internet medical advisory for consumers, cites six symptoms associated with heart attacks in women. They include classic symptoms like sweating and shortness of breath, but also include less typical symptoms like abdominal pressure, stomach pain, and fatigue.

Women going to an ER with such symptoms have a better chance of proper diagnosis when they are their own advocates. Differential diagnoses might include stomach issues rather than coronary ones, and it could be important for the patient to insist that repeat EKG’s are performed and troponin levels checked more than once. During the early stages of a heart attack, it is not uncommon for these values to be normal, but if symptoms persist while she is in the hospital, a woman should not be discharged until repeat studies are completed. This was not done in the case that I handled, and the result was catastrophic injury to the young woman, which led to a medical malpractice suit.