Before doctors can provide any treatment to help with a medical condition, they must first get the diagnosis right. While malpractice often involves problems with the delivery of the treatment (i.e. an error during surgery or a medication overdose), it also frequently stems from failure to identify a problem at all. Besides providing treatment safely, one of the most critical aspects of medical work involves figuring out what course of action to pursue in the first place.
Sometimes a medical issue is quite complex, and it is impossible for proper diagnoses to be made with certainty. However, at other times, doctors fail to diagnose something or diagnose the wrong thing when a reasonable doctor would not have made the mistake. In those latter cases, malpractice may be involved and affected families can seek recovery for their losses.
Misdiagnosis & Brain Damage
One of example of this type of error was discussed recently in the Lowell Sun. The report explained how a trial recently got underway in a case filed by a mother on behalf of her daughter. The now-15 year old suffered a serious and debilitating brain injury as a result of undiagnosed meningitis. Over seven years ago the daughter was showing signs of some problem and so her mother took her to the defendant-doctor. The doctor was not the family’s regular pediatrician, because their usual doctor was away on maternity leave at the time.
The replacement doctor told the mother after an initial examination that she thought the girl was suffering from some allergy problem. The mother asked if more tests could be conducted to pinpoint the problem, but the doctor told her that no more was needed. The girl was given an allergy medication and sent on her way.
Reports indicate that the mother was worried that her daughter might have meningitis, and so she specifically asked for a blood test to be done. However, the defendant-doctor allegedly did not do so. Uniquely, medical records in the case suggest that the doctor actually wrote down that meningitis was suspected. But a spinal tap–the test used to diagnose meningitis–was not performed.
That would prove very costly.
Only two days later the mother found her daughter having a seizure. She was rushed to a local emergency room where doctors told her that the girl suffered a stroke. They detected meningitis in her system. The child fell into a coma and did not wake for three weeks. By that time she had suffered brain damage as a result of the stroke.
Unfortunately, the brain damage is severe. The girl needed to re-learn many basic skills, like eating, walking, and talking. Even then, she likely will not function at a normal level for her age, and probably faces a lifetime of needing special assistance to get by each day. As one might expect, the costs of these types of injuries over the course of a lifetime are staggering–not counting the mental and emotional toll that it takes on all those involved.
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