Earlier this week the State Journal Register ran a high-profile story that sheds light on the consequences of one particularly complex form of Illinois medical malpractice: misdiagnosis.
An incident was highlighted that explains how a mistaken diagnosis that a woman had a fatal mix of problems almost led to her death. The victim was brought to a hospital after she broke her leg in a home fall. While at the hospital the patient eventually developed shortness of breath. A subsequent X-ray revealed that she had lung cancer. A team of physicians decided there was likely little that they could do for the victim. She was put on “comfort care” and her family was told to expect her passing within hours.
Doctors were surprised when the woman was still alive the next morning. Early that day an oncologist on duty was looking at the woman’s records and discovered that her lung cancer appeared treatable. The oncologist thought that the woman’s problems likely stemmed from colon problems instead of the cancer. He suggested that a colonoscopy be performed.
Upon hearing this suggestion the patient’s previous doctors repeated that the test was futile. Eventually the exam proceeded but the doctor performing the procedure refused to suck out excess gas in the woman’s system because he thought it hopeless. Fortunately, the oncologist who had insisted on the alternative course of treatment was able to get a nurse to remove the gas. Following that step, the woman’s condition immediately improved. The victim was able to return home, though the removal of oxygen for 24 hours may have caused her some slight brain damage.
The woman is fortunate to be alive. Were it not for the persistence of the oncologist, the woman likely wouldn’t have been given a second look by doctors assuming she was going to die. Patients in similar situations are likely to pass away because of the misdiagnosis.
Observers explain that doctors rarely receive feedback on their diagnosis and therefore often become overconfident. One of the nation’s leading experts on diagnostic errors noted that doctors “get it right so often that they don’t really appreciate that they get it wrong. And they just take it for granted that everything they’re doing is OK.”
An Illinois medical malpractice lawyer knows that medical misdiagnosis (or delayed diagnosis) often injures patients in our area. It is important for improvements to be made each time that a victim comes forward to share their story of error. We urge all residents to hold their wrongdoers accountable and help improve the system for everyone.
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