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Fatal result of misdiagnosis leads to $4.8 million award

The failure to diagnose the condition of a patient is the basis for many medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania and in other states. One of the basic elements of a doctor’s responsibility to a patient is to follow medical standards in order to correctly diagnose a condition so that the patient can be properly treated. The accuracy of a doctor’s diagnosis can be critical.

In a recent case, a jury has awarded the family of a man $4.8 million for a doctor’s failure to diagnose his condition when he visited an emergency room.  The patient, who was 23 years old at the time, was complaining of symptoms including chest pain, fever and a cough. The physician reportedly spent five minutes with the man and sent him home with a diagnosis of bronchitis and prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers. The next morning, the man was dead.

After an autopsy, medical examiners found that the man had actually been suffering from a virus called myocarditis, which affects the heart muscle through infection and inflammation. The correct diagnosis could have been made in the emergency room had the attending physician ordered an electrocardiogram.

After a five-day jury trial, the doctor was found to have been negligent in his attention to the man’s treatment and care.  The jury found that the lack of attention contributed to the man’s death.  The victim’s mother will receive an award of $2.925 million which, with interest, will amount to $4.8 million in compensation.

Patients or their families who have suffered a loss as a result of a misdiagnosis may be able to hold medical professionals accountable. Not all misdiagnoses amount to medical malpractice, but when a hospital or doctor deviates from the accepted standard of medical car, it can be important to hold them responsible.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Jury awards $4.8m to family in death of patient: Heart ailment was not detected in ’06,” Jacqueline Tempera, March 10, 2014