The patient-physician relationship is built on trust — the patient trusts that his or her doctor is acting within the standard of care and the physician trusts that the patient is following orders. In this Illinois medical malpractice case, both parties argued that the other violated this mutual trust. The plaintiff argued that the defendant doctor acted negligently, while the doctor argued that the plaintiff failed to follow his medical advice.
The case arose after the 19-year-old plaintiff developed lithium toxicity. The defendant psychiatrist, Dr. John Huh, had prescribed the plaintiff lithium for her bipolar disorder.This in itself was not unusual. Lithium is often prescribed to treat patients with bipolar disorder due to its ability to reduce the frequency and severity of bipolar depression.
However, lithium carries with it some fairly serious side effects, including muscle weakness, sudden hair loss, poor concentration, drowsiness, vomiting, and diarrhea. In order to prevent these serious side effects, physicians regularly monitor the levels of lithium in a patient’s blood stream, adjusting the dosage as necessary. However, in this case, Dr. Huh failed to obtain regular blood draws, thereby missing the warning signs that the plaintiff was developing lithium toxicity.