When meeting a patient for the first time, there is a complete diagnostic process physicians and healthcare workers must complete in order to correctly diagnose a patient, including various tests and labs. These tests are done as a result of a specific complaint by the patient or as part of a routine check up. The process requires the clinician to see the lab results, interpret them, determine the appropriate treatment plan, and lastly, contact the patient to inform them of the result.
Unfortunately, a significant portion of concerning test results are not communicated to the patient or to the appropriate healthcare worker, resulting in delayed treatment. Delays in treatment can lead to a worsening condition or, in extreme cases, death.
1,744 Deaths in Five Years
Analysts have examined the clinical and legal records of 23,658 malpractice cases occurring between 2009 to 2013. It was determined that over 7,000 cases, where communication failures, either among medical staff or between medical staff and patients, harmed patients.
One of the cases examined in the report involved a woman whose cancer diagnosis was delayed an entire year because her primary care physician was not informed, despite her lab results being entered into her electronic medical record.
In yet another case, a primary care physician referred a patient to a pulmonologist, but failed to highlight lab results signaling possible early congestive heart failure. Nine days later, the patient was rushed to the emergency room and died after his lungs filled with fluid.
A Closer Look at Failure to Follow Up on Lab Results
In the early morning hours of February 17, 2015, University of Oregon freshman Lauren Camille Jones was rushed to the hospital suffering from a fever of 103, chills, shaking, anxiety, and lower back spasms. Soon after arriving, Ms. Jones was administered Tylenol and seen by the emergency room physician. Despite known cases of meningococcal disease on campus, Jones was discharged after receiving a negative flu test result with instructions to continue to take Tylenol and ibuprofen and to drink a lot of water. Shortly after noon that same day, less than seven hours after being seen in the emergency room, Lauren was found unconscious in her dorm room and was rushed to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, where she was pronounced dead just 12 hours after her initial visit to the emergency room.
The lawsuit filed by Miller and Wagner on behalf of the family of Lauren Jones states that the hospital allegedly failed to conduct a complete blood count (CBC) test on Ms. Jones. The test would have indicated the presence of an infection, as well as the need for a life saving antibiotic treatment to combat meningococcal disease. The parents of Ms. Jones filed a $5 million lawsuit against the hospital for pain and suffering before her death, as well as the loss of society, love, and companionship that her parents suffered.
After a very emotional trial, the local jury in Eugene, Oregon unanimously awarded the Jones family over $2,000,000 in damages for the negligence of the emergency room doctor and the hospital in causing Lauren’s death.
Rory Staunton was 12 years old when he cut his arm diving for a baseball during gym class. He was brought to his pediatrician’s office the next day, Thursday, March 29, vomiting, feverish, and with pain in his leg. He was then sent to the emergency room at NYU Langone Medical Center. The physicians treating Rory diagnosed him with an upset stomach and dehydration; they administered Tylenol and fluids and sent him home.
By the time Rory was discharged from the hospital, his condition was dire. Bacteria had already entered into his bloodstream, more than likely through the cut on his arm, and he was suffering from septic shock. On April 1st, just three nights after he was sent home from the emergency room, Rory died in the intensive care unit. The cause of death was severe septic shock brought on by the infection.
Rory Staunton died because the hospital failed to notify the physician and the family of the lab results showing that he was already suffering from a serious infection. The hospital sent Rory home even though the labs indicated that he had five times the normal number of immature white blood cells, called “bands”, which is a sign of the body reacting to an infection.
Have You Experienced a Delay in Treatment?
Miscommunication of lab results between healthcare professionals can pose significant health risks to patients. Detrimental errors can include failure to read lab results correctly as well as a failure to follow up on lab results. This delay in treatment can cause serious complications, including death. If you feel that you, or a member of your family has suffered from medical malpractice due to a physician’s failure to follow up on labs, there are options.
Let us evaluate your case
Miller & Wagner represent medical malpractice clients throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. Attorneys Dave Miller and Bob Wagner each have more than 35 years of trial experience pertaining to medical negligence claims. Much of their legal backgrounds include working to defend patients and their families in medical malpractice lawsuits.
If you think that either you or a family member has been injured by a failure to follow up on labs, or for additional information about filing a diagnosis error claim in Oregon or Southwest Washington, contact Miller & Wagner in Portland for a free consultation.