Medical professionals in Joliet and throughout the entire state of Illinois see and treat numerous patients for the same symptoms and illnesses every week. But when a doctor treats a patient for concerning symptoms, the most dangerous mistake a doctor can make is to quickly assume that the patient’s symptoms are simply caused by the common cold or another common illness that is going around.
Without administering proper tests to first rule out life-threatening health problems before diagnosing a patient, doctors could miss warning signs that something far more serious is going on. The failure to diagnose a patient’s symptoms or a misdiagnosis could prevent a patient from being able to receive life-saving medical treatment.
In September 2009, a teenager had been admitted to a hospital after she began experiencing severe back pain and abdominal pain. She also had a fever and her heart rate was abnormal. Her symptoms indicated that she could have had appendicitis. But when doctors performed a laparoscopy, they discovered that appendicitis was not the cause of her symptoms.
This should have prompted doctors to perform other tests so that they could diagnose the 18-year-old’s illness. Instead, the teen was left in her hospital room with limited monitoring. Based on her symptoms, hospital staff should have continued to check on her temperature, her pulse and her blood pressure on an hourly basis. However, a period of 11 hours had gone by before staff checked the teen’s vital signs again.
Within this time, the teen’s health became increasingly worse. She went into cardiac arrest and died less than 30 hours after she had been admitted to the hospital.
A coroner later determined that the teen’s symptoms had been caused by a kidney infection. Had the infection been properly diagnosed, the teen could have been treated with antibiotics. Infections can be deadly, but when infections are diagnosed and treated in time, patients often survive.
This tragic incident did not occur in Illinois, but it is an awful reminder of how quickly one medical mistake can cause the wrongful death of a patient. The hospital where the incident occurred recently acknowledged that it did fail to provide quality care to the teen. This lack of care ultimately resulted in the teen’s death.
Source: Yorkshire Post, “Inquest blast at NHS for failing to save girl’s life,” July 6, 2012
Failure to Diagnose