Articles Posted in Misdiagnosis

This appeal is from the district court’s dismissal, on statute of limitations grounds, of a medical malpractice lawsuit. The plaintiff, Johnnie Watkins, filed the action on behalf of her adult daughter, Johnnice Ford, who is a disabled person. The lawsuit alleged that Ford sought treatment at the emergency room of Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Chicago where she was treated by a doctor who was an employee of Family Christian Health Center. This facility was operated pursuant to grant money from the Public Health Services, an agency of the U.S. government. The lawsuit was brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and the United States is the defendant.

In the lawsuit, it was asserted that the treating physician chose not to correctly diagnose and treat Ford who was eventually correctly diagnosed with Wernicke’s encephalopathy and who sustained neurological injuries, including permanent disability. Encephalopathy is a general term that describes a disease that damages the brain. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a severe vitamin B1 deficiency. Parts of the brain may be damaged as a result of this deficiency causing increased difficulty with memory, movement, vision and coordination.

The federal district court judge dismissed the lawsuit that was filed beyond the relevant statute of limitations. Watkins appealed that dismissal order to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
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Alice Mays was 54 when she entered the emergency room at Sinai-Grace Hospital. She was complaining of nausea and vomiting over a four-day period. After the emergency department medical providers tested her, it was revealed that she had a bowel obstruction. The emergency department staff then gave her saline and later brought her to surgery. The 5-hour operation performed by the surgeon, Dr. Jill Watras, involved removal of part of her large bowel.

She showed continuously low urine output, which prompted Dr. Watras to order aggressive hydration after the surgery.

For the next two days, Mays received a total of 30,000 mL of fluids. Nonetheless, she had little or no urine output. She eventually suffered respiratory depression, abdominal compartment syndrome and organ failure. She was returned to surgery but suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage. Mays died two months later. She was a graphic artist and is survived by her siblings.
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In a case being reported with a confidentiality agreement, Doe, age 15, developed a mass on the bone of her left middle finger, for which orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ronald Hillock recommended surgery.

During the outpatient procedure, Dr. Hillock used a latex Penrose drain to place a tourniquet around Doe’s finger. While in the recovery room, a nurse noted that Doe’s finger looked discolored; however, Hillock discharged Doe.

Doe had several follow-up appointments with Dr. Hillock in the next few weeks but the finger remained discolored. Doe consulted a different doctor about 30 days after the surgery. That physician diagnosed ischemia and later performed a finger amputation.
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A  Springfield, Mo., jury signed a verdict for $28.9 million for a 24-year-old woman who sustained a devastating brain injury caused by a rare copper disorder. The lawsuit, brought in Greene County, Mo., claimed that a local hospital’s medical staff chose not to correctly diagnose and treat Emilee Williams’ symptoms. In fact, it was alleged that the hospital took the position that it did not need to do a full and complete neurological exam even though Williams presented to the hospital with symptoms. The hospital dismissed her symptoms as anxiety.

It was in December 2012 that Williams presented to the hospital. She was examined by Dr. Elene Pilapil with complaints of fatigue, tremors, balance issues, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, crying spells and anxiety. Dr. Pilapil diagnosed Williams with anxiety and did not consider ordering more diagnostic testing. A prescription for Prozac was written and Williams was sent home. Eight months later, not until August 2013, was an MRI finally ordered that showed that Williams was brain damaged, caused by the previously undiagnosed Wilson’s disease. This was done only after Emilee and her mother continued to complain to the doctor that Emilee had something much more significant happening to her than just anxiety.

As it was proved at trial, Williams had undiagnosed Wilson’s disease. This disease, although rare, causes too much copper to accumulate in the liver, brain and other vital organs, which was the cause of her devastating permanent injuries. Williams was a former high school student and athlete, but today is limited from paralysis, motor and speech impairment and must be fed through a tube in her stomach.
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Melissa Bain, in her capacity as the personal representative of the estate of her deceased husband Christopher Heath (“Heath”), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Colbert County Northwest Alabama Health Care Authority d/b/a Helen Keller Hospital (“HKH”). Dr. Preston Wigfall was the emergency room physician working at the hospital on the night Heath was taken to the emergency room.

This matter began because Heath complained he had a lump in his throat that would not go away. When the pain became unbearable, he was taken to the hospital’s emergency room. In his history was the fact that his father had died of an aneurysm at the age of 47 and that he also had hypertension. He was on high blood pressure medication.

In the ER there was no evidence that the nurses on duty bothered to review his medical history with him. Dr. Wigfall, who was the emergency room physician on duty that night, did not remember if he took Heath’s medical history. Nothing was recorded in that respect.
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When Chelsea Weekley was about five months old, she suffered a skull fracture. The fracture expanded over time and a cyst was formed on her skull. At age 17, Chelsea was hit on the head and suffered a loss of consciousness, blurred vision and dizziness.

After CT and MRI scans confirmed the extent of the skull fracture and cyst, Chelsea underwent a canaloplasty surgery to repair the fracture and the area where the cyst had formed. The surgery was done at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis by the defendant Dr. Ann Flannery, a neurosurgeon, and by Dr. Raghuram Sampath, a neurosurgical resident.

Chelsea was discharged a day after the surgery and was found dead in her bed just three days later. An autopsy was completed, which found that Chelsea had died from a seizure brought about by the surgical damage.
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A 16-year-old girl was incarcerated at a county juvenile detention center.She had a history of chronic depression and other mental health issues, was noted to be irritable and at risk for self-injurious behavior and suicide.

During her approximately two-month stay, this young woman was placed on suicide watch many times. Medications included Abilify, which was prescribed to help with her mood and anxiety.

This detainee experienced chest pains and increased anxiety. She asked the probation officer if she could see a mental health expert. The next day she complained to a physician that the Abilify was not working and that she was experiencing panic attacks. The doctor referred the young woman to a psychiatrist. Several hours later however, the woman barricaded herself in her room and hanged herself with a bedsheet. She is survived by her parents.

A Cook County jury signed a verdict after answering a special interrogatory in this medical malpractice case related to the prescription of a drug Adriamycin, which is given to cancer patients for chemotherapy and is known to cause heart damage as one of its risks.

The special interrogatory given to the jury was: “Do you find that the conduct of Dr. Weyburn (the oncologist), as set forth in the (jury) instructions was negligent and that such negligence was a proximate cause of Beata Gorgon’s injuries?”  The answer given by this jury was “No.”

Beata Gorgon, 44, presented to the defendant Dr. Thomas Weyburn, an oncologist, in August 2008 for treatment of Stage 3 breast cancer. Dr. Weyburn prescribed Adriamycin for the chemotherapy regimen. Dr. Weyburn contended in this lawsuit that he ordered an echocardiogram for Gorgon prior to the start of the delivery of the Adriamycin and then elected to start giving the drug before she underwent the test.

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Deshawn Gray, 25, suffered a left tibial fracture in a motorcycle accident. He was transferred to St. Joseph Hospital where he was admitted by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jacqueline Mlsna. Dr. Mlsna ordered a femoral nerve block with a postsurgical catheter and then did an open reduction internal fixation surgery to repair the fracture.

Within three hours of the surgery, Gray developed severe pain, paresthesia and paralysis of his left foot and toes. Three hours after that, Gray’s attending nurses notified anesthesiologist Dr. James Maney, who allegedly advised the nurses to tell Dr. Mlsna about Gray’s symptoms. However, the nurses chose not to do that or follow up.

Over the next two days, Dr. Mlsna’s partner, orthopedist Dr. Shawn Tracy, noted that Gray had a numb and motionless foot.  Dr. Dr. Tracy allegedly attributed this to a possible surgical nerve injury.

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Business owner Kevin Orr, 42, went to a hospital emergency room complaining of dizziness, headache and inability to stand. A CT scan, interpreted by the radiologist and defendant, Dr. James Bell, showed blockage of blood vessels supplying blood to Orr’s brain. However, this was not reported by the physician’s assistant who ordered the scan.

Dr. Bell concluded that the CT scan was normal and showed only sinusitis. Orr was diagnosed as having a sinus infection and was then discharged.

Orr returned to his primary care physician’s office in the next two weeks and reported vomiting and headaches. The physician’s assistant again diagnosed sinusitis. Three weeks after Orr’s emergency room visit, he suffered a massive stroke resulting in permanent disability, including impaired gait, facial pain and tingling, and arm and leg numbness.

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