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Jury awards over $10 million after failure to diagnose meningitis

Parents know all too well the panic experienced as a result of a sick child. A parent may feel helpless regarding decisions concerning his or her child's care. However, once a parent in Massachusetts makes the decision to seek medical treatment for a child, there is an expectation that the child will be appropriately treated. Unfortunately, one out-of-state mother claims that her son has been harmed because of emergency room physicians' failure to diagnose his infection.

After the 11-month-old had experienced symptoms for several days, his mother made the decision to take him to the emergency room. At that time, doctors diagnosed him with a respiratory infection and sent him home. When his symptoms worsened, his mother brought him back to the emergency room. Although his symptoms routinely result in a test for bacterial meningitis, doctors did not order the test; instead, they sent him home.

The mother returned again. At that time, the test was conducted. However, even after tests results indicated he was suffering from bacterial meningitis, the child's mother claims that treatment was delayed for at least another three hours. By that time, the boy's brain had been damaged. Now at the age of 6, he functions as a 3-year-old.

As a result of the harm he experienced, his mother filed a medical malpractice lawsuit. Representatives for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia argue that his symptoms led them to believe that he had bronchitis. In fact, they say, he responded to treatment, making their decision not to run further tests reasonable. A jury has recently sided with the mother and son, awarding them $10.1 million in damages.

While no one is perfect, when the life of a patient is at risk, it is imperative that doctors strive to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The failure to diagnose a potential serious infection such as bacterial meningitis can have serious consequences. Unfortunately, there are families in Massachusetts who are now coping with the aftermath of medical malpractice. Those families have the option of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. If their claims can be proved, they could receive an award of damages that will help the cope with a hospital's negligence.

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

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