A Cook County jury recently awarded $2.75 million in an Illinois wrongful death case involving the death of an Illinois male from an undiagnosed pulmonary embolism. Instead of diagnosing the man’s pulmonary embolism, the Illinois emergency room staff misdiagnosed the decedent with a seizure disorder. Rhodes v. Malik, et al., No. 06 L 5467.
While misdiagnosing a patient can often be the result of medical negligence, misdiagnosed cases do not always lead to medical malpractice lawsuits. Whether or not a lawsuit is brought hinges on the degree of damages, or the final outcome. In Rhodes, the decedent’s estate alleged that the misdiagnosed patient died as a result of the incorrect diagnosis. However, if a delay in diagnosis had only led to some discomfort or minor inconvenience on the part of the decedent then there would not likely have been grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
In Rhodes, the decedent’s estate was critical of the emergency department’s errors at Weiss Memorial Hospital, specifically its misdiagnosis of a seizure disorder. The decedent had presented to Weiss’s emergency room after collapsing on a train platform. The initial doctor suspected that his collapse was due to seizures and ordered a wide range of tests to confirm this diagnosis. However, before the results came back, the initial doctor’s shift was up, at which time the decedent’s care was transferred to an additional emergency medicine physician.
The second doctor received the negative test results, which would typically deny rather than confirm a seizures diagnosis. However, instead of amending the diagnosis, or ordering additional tests to determine the cause of the decedent’s collapse, the emergency room doctor discharged the patient. The decedent died several hours after his discharge from the emergency room from his undiagnosed pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are fairly common and can be life-threatening.
The jury found in favor of the decedent’s estate against the second emergency medicine physician. However, the jury did not feel that the initial emergency room physician was guilty of medical negligence. The initial doctor had taken steps to determine the underlying cause of the decedent’s collapse, while the same could not be said of the second doctor.
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