An Illinois medical malpractice verdict was recently discussed in the latest edition of “Justice For All”-the monthly newsletter from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. The case is a tragic one, involving medical errors that left the local man a paraplegic. According to a report in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, the 55-year old victim’s paralysis was caused by a failure to diagnose a dangerous spinal infection.
Apparently the man was seen by a variety of doctors at the hospital. He had gone to the facility to get help after experiencing constant back pain. The patient had been playing golf and felt sharp pain between his shoulder blades. The pain only grew worse and then began radiating into his chest. The preliminary diagnosis upon his being admitted to the hospital was chest pain. Then, awhile later, he was diagnosed as having pneumonia. The errors only continued. A doctor ordered a CT scan for the man’s thorax and abdomen. However, for unknown reasons, the nurse actually wrote down a test for chest pain. That triggered the order for a radiology technician.
Amazingly, it wasn’t for another twenty days (and six doctors) later that the man was correctly diagnosed with having a spinal infection. However, by that time serious damage had already been done, because the infection had gone untreated for nearly three weeks. The man was soon permanently paralyzed.
After the ordeal the man met with an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer to share his story. After learning more about the situation and exactly what happened, an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit was then filed to hold the negligent parties accountable and provide redress. Late last year the case finally went to trial. After hearing the evidence the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff. They found the hospital and a group of doctors involved liable for the series of errors committed during the man’s ordeal. He was awarded $4.75 million. It remains unclear if an appeal is pending.
This case demonstrates something that our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have seen time and again through the years. Once an incorrect diagnosis is made originally, it is often difficult for subsequent medical professionals to correct the error. Ensuring proper steps are taken to identify a medical problem initially is crucial. Treatments are based off an initial diagnosis, and so that treatment process often muddies the water, making it difficult to see that the diagnosis was incorrect. Usually it is only after one’s condition gets worse that doctors step back and determine if the initial diagnosis was incorrect. Unfortunately, by that time, severe, permanent damage may already have been done.
When the initial misdiagnosis is caused by doctors who do not act according to reasonable standards of care, then it is often appropriate for the victim to receive redress for the complications that resulted from the error. There are always times when a failed diagnosis is a genuine mistake that even prudent doctors would have made. However, at other times, the involved professional breaches the acceptable level of care and provides aid less than what the patient is legally entitled to expect.
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