Failure to Diagnose and Treat Infection Can Be Deadly - A Reminder To Be Proactive When It Comes To Your Medical Care

A recent jury verdict in Massachusetts illustrates that failure to diagnose and treat infection, an occurrence that is more common than you might think, can have catastrophic consequences. It also serves as a reminder that being as closely involved as possible in your medical care or the medical care of a loved one can result in better care and even save lives.

In this case, a 40-year-old woman was diagnosed with a type of cancer typically found in children (Ewing's sarcoma). She sought treatment at a hospital and met with an oncologist and agreed to participate in a clinical trial involving aggressive chemotherapy. This treatment regimen had been performed on adults and children elsewhere, but never at this hospital was an adult treated with this type of therapy.

She underwent four rounds of chemotherapy without significant complications over the next eight weeks but then developed several bouts of diarrhea, which she reported to her healthcare providers. Although diarrhea is not a common side effect of this particular type of chemotherapy treatment, her caregivers failed to order any stool cultures, prescribe any antibiotics, or postpone chemotherapy until her symptoms improved. Instead, she was informed that diarrhea was a side effect of the chemotherapy and chemotherapy was continued.
Over the next two weeks she continued to suffer from persistent diarrhea and she brought these problems to her doctors’ attention. Her complaints were ignored and no further action was taken to determine the cause of her diarrhea. Instead, another round of chemotherapy was started. The next week the diarrhea continued and she sought emergency treatment at another hospital, complaining of severe stomach pain and difficulty with urination. She was immediately hospitalized. Her diagnosis was sepsis and necrotizing fasciitis, which is a flesh eating infection. Her immune system was so compromised that surgery was not an option and she was not strong enough to fight the infection. She died two days later.

Suit was brought against the doctors involved in her care for failure to diagnose the infection that took her life and failing to provide proper treatment for her infection. The allegations were negligent failure to order stool cultures or other tests to investigate the cause of her major chronic diarrhea that was not a typical side effect of her particular chemotherapy regimen, and failure to postpone her chemotherapy until she could recuperate from her severe diarrhea. The jury found that two of the three defendant doctors were negligent and awarded significant damages.

While a lot can be taken from this fairly young woman's story, what we don't know is whether her death might have been prevented had she and her family been more persistent with questions and concerns regarding the course of her care. Because doctors and other care providers are highly trained individuals, some people have a tendency to place their faith completely in these medical providers. Unfortunately, in some cases that faith can result in inadequate or even poor medical care and treatment, sometimes with disastrous results like the death of this woman. One moral of the story is to be active and proactive in your medical care and the medical care of your loved ones. If you or a loved one has suffered due to a failure to diagnose infection, you are sure to have immediate questions. There are answers to some of your most important questions right here on our website. 


At Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, we have been representing victims of medical malpractice including failure to diagnose infection for more than 15 years. We understand that a serious medical injury can have devastating consequences and we are dedicated to thoroughly representing the victims of such injuries every step of the way. Contact the experienced lawyers at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys at (816) 471-5111 for a FREE consultation with no obligation.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.