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$10.1 million is awarded for hospital's failure to diagnose

Failing to correctly diagnose a patient who visits an emergency room with ominous symptoms is a commonly reported medical negligence claim in North Carolina and nationwide. This may be particularly true when the patient appears at the emergency room more than once in a short timespan, complaining of a worsening condition. In one such case in another state recently, a jury returned a verdict of $10.1 million in favor of a mother and her son for failure to diagnose the son's meningitis.

The problem in such cases is that the misdiagnosis often results in a critical life-threatening intensification of the medical condition, with irreversible consequences. In some cases, the physicians will provide the wrong treatment, and the patient's condition will be consequently worsened. In the foregoing case, a mother brought her 11-month-old child to the emergency room of an established children's hospital with symptoms of fever, abnormal heart beats and respiratory problems.

In such situations, according to the plaintiff's experts, a test for bacterial infection should have been performed. The child was taken on three consecutive days to the hospital, but on the first two days he was sent home with what was called an upper respiratory infection. On the third day, a blood test was finally taken, but it was many hours later before physicians evaluated the problem and decided to administer the necessary antibiotics. By that time it was too late, and the child suffered dire injuries, including permanent brain damage, according to the suit.

The child now suffers from hearing loss, language defects, developmental learning disabilities and a loss of normal balance. The amount awarded will be used partly to provide rehabilitative services and other medical treatment in the future. The result is consistent with North Carolina laws regarding medical negligence, including with respect to the issue of failure to diagnose, and a similar outcome could occur in this state.

Source: philly.com, "Jury awards $10.1M in malpractice case against CHOP", Chris Mondics, Nov. 19, 2015

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