Misdiagnosis Of Meningitis Cited In Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
The Courtroom View Network has recently featured a lawsuit filed by a patient against his doctor for failing to diagnose bacterial meningitis in time to prevent severe brain damage. According to the lawsuit, the man presented to the clinic with rapidly escalating fever and severe disorientation. Nonetheless, his doctor diagnosed him with the flu and sent him home. His condition worsened, ultimately resulting in brain damage.
The plaintiff contends that the hospital did not properly meet their standard of care when addressing his needs. The clinic contends they met the standard of care based on the symptoms the patient presented to the emergency room at the time.
However, at the time of his treatment, the patient was delirious and disoriented, barely able to stand on his own two feet. His temperature had gone over 103 degrees. He was diagnosed with the flu and told to take over-the-counter flu medication. However, his condition rapidly deteriorated and he ended up in the emergency room later that night.
There, he was diagnosed with meningitis, but the infection had already begun to cause brain damage.
The plaintiffs are seeking $25 million in damages, so there was very little hope of this case settling. That places the defense in a position of making arguments in front of a jury that may not be very satisfying. For example, the defense contends that the plaintiff never complained of two symptoms that generally trigger a meningitis diagnosis. However, the jury will wonder why the doctors are relying on the word of a delirious patient who cannot even stand to do diagnostic work. So, ultimately, these arguments aren’t very satisfying and don’t explain away why the patient wasn’t treated with more care.
The entire defense hinges on whether or not doctors should have released the patient with a diagnosis of the flu which was clearly wrong. So, we know that the decision was wrong, but did it deviate from the prevailing standard of care? That may not boil down to the diagnosis at all. It may, in fact, hinge on whether or not a patient with a temperature as high as the plaintiffs should be discharged at all. You don’t need to know a patient has meningitis to know that releasing him from a clinical setting with delirium caused by a fever puts his life in peril.
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