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Family files malpractice suit for failure to diagnose meningitis

As readers may recall, this blog recently focused on a study looking into diagnostic errors among primary care physicians. Diagnostic errors include both erroneous diagnosis and the failure to diagnose a particular condition, which are both mistakes that can be life threatening. Furthermore, individuals injured due to medical mistakes such as the failure to diagnose may be eligible for damages. Maryland residents might be interested to read about such a case currently taking place in the state of Massachusetts.

The incident that gave rise to the lawsuit occurred in 2005 when the mother of a 15-year-old girl brought her daughter to the pediatrician. The girl's regular pediatrician, however, was not available, so the girl saw a new doctor. According to the complaint, the new doctor diagnosed the young girl as suffering from allergies when, in fact, she was suffering from viral meningitis. The mother of the victim claims that she suggested the possibility of meningitis to the attending doctor but said the doctor rebuffed her.

Two days later, after being released from the hospital, the girl began experiencing seizures. Her mother rushed her to the hospital where she then suffered a stroke and fell into a coma, waking nearly three weeks later. Doctors have since diagnosed the girl with severe brain damage. Despite no tests having been preformed to rule out meningitis during the family's initial visit, the physician who initially diagnosed the 15-year-old girl noted in her medical file that she did in fact suspect viral meningitis.

Too often patients in hospitals lose their lives because of physicians' failure to diagnose. The hazard in failing to diagnose illnesses is that it results in the failure to treat illnesses, and in many cases time is of the essence. If a patient is injured due to a doctor's failure to to diagnose an illness correctly, that person may be entitled to damages. Damages can often cover medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and even punitive awards.

Source: The Lowell Sun, "Lowell medical malpractice trial set to begin," February 27, 2013

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