Medical care today is incredibly complex. Doctors spend years in advanced study, internships, and residency work specifically to develop the skill needed to perform modern medicine. For these reasons, patients understandably rely extensively on the advice of their doctors. Perhaps more than any other profession, doctors recommendations are frequently trusted often without question.
But that trust can lead to problems when the care provided is substandard. A significant amount of medical malpractice involves professionals who fail to take action when they should. Failure to diagnose cases are often tragic, as the delay in diagnosing a problem can prove fatal.
The Expert Institute recently published a post that reviews one of these failure to diagnose cases. The helpful piece discusses how the opinion of an expert witnesses proves crucial in subsequent malpractice cases. That is because other doctors are needed to explain what standard protocol is in any given medical situation. Deviance from those reasonable standards resulting in harm should result in legal liability.
The patient in this case was a young child, a seven month old girl who went to visit her pediatrician with some sort of brain problem. More specifically, she had “obstructive hydrocephalus” which is a build-up of fluid in the brain (though it was not known at the time). The girl was brought to the doctor because she was vomiting, was irritable, and had trouble holding up her head. Unfortunately, no extensive tests were ordered by the doctor on both the first and second visits. It was only when the infant’s condition kept deteriorating and the family went in for a third time that a CT test was ordered in addition to a neurological consultation. Even then, the consultation was scheduled on a non-emergency basis, even though the mother indicated that the child’s eye lid seemed to be drooping–a clear sign of some potential brain problem.
Fortunately, the mother was persistent and pushed to have the consultation on the following day. The neurologist noted various problems and the child was admitted to a hospital. It was then that a brain tumor was discovered. A surgery was quickly scheduled and doctors tried to remove the tumor. Unfortunately,the entire tumor was not extracted, and chemotherapy was needed to get at the remaining portions.
In a subsequent malpractice case, a key issue was whether the pediatrician should have spotted the signs of brain tumor in the infant earlier. An expert witness discussed the diagnosis issue. Specifically, the expert explained how symptoms of the tumor usually start subtly and then become worse. Because infants are not able to communicate their specific symptoms, it is increasingly important for pediatricians to identify other signs, including “irritability, poor feeding, excessive crying, and difficulty ”
The expert continued by noting that in this case the doctor measured a “rapidly expanding size of the head” which should have acted as an obvious indicator that there may be some obstruction in the brain. In other words, immediate action needed to be taken but wasn’t.
For help with medical malpractice issues in Chicago or throughout Illinois, feel free to contact our attorneys today to see how we can help.
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