Jury Awards $5 Million After Diagnosing Pneumonia As The Flu
A man suffered serious permanent injuries after a hospital misdiagnosed him with the flu. While they teach you to look for horses as opposed to zebras in medical school, zebras remain real and exist. When a zebra comes into your hospital, you have to treat them too. Not just the horses.
Trouble comes into play when doctors simply assume they’re looking at a horse without running the necessary tests. In this case, the man had bacterial pneumonia and had gone septic. The clinic missed the warning signs of a bacterial infection and diagnosed him with the influenza virus instead. In the case of the flu, antibiotics don’t help. However, with bacterial infections, they do. The patient ended up suffering multiple strokes and sustained severe lung damage. He now has permanent brain damage and ongoing neurological deficits, according to his attorneys. The $5 million will compensate him for medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced quality of life.
What happened versus what should have happened?
The man presented to an emergency clinic where they likely saw that he was suffering from some kind of infection, recognized that the flu was going around, and simply pinned the tail on the donkey. However, that’s a fairly lazy standard of practice. In cases of bacterial infection and especially pneumonia, throat cultures are used to diagnose the infection. In this case, the clinic never ran a simple throat culture, or if they did they interpreted it wrong. Either way, the bacterial infection was diagnosable when the patient walked in, yet it was not correctly diagnosed.
Those who have the flu are generally told to get a lot of fluids, rest, and sleep it off. There isn’t a lot you can do about the flu. Luckily, it goes away quickly. When it comes to bacteria, however, we can treat conditions with antibiotics. In this case, a simple antibiotic could have prevented the defendant from being airlifted to another hospital where he had to fight for his life.
Another thing to understand is that bacterial infections are easier to treat the smaller they are. Once the infection has spread to the point that it’s causing lung damage, you’re in trouble. So, in this case, the failure to get the patient the medicine he needed directly resulted in brain and lung damage.
For doctors, it remains a constant battle to ensure you’re eliminating the possibility of a zebra before firmly diagnosing a horse. In this case, that didn’t happen and the results were tragic. When the doctor fails to consider the correct diagnosis before sending the patient home, the patient can sue on the grounds of misdiagnosis.
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