Family Medicine Physician Fails to Detect Fatal Infection

Joseph O'Neill

Written by
— Updated on May 11, 2016

Family Medicine

In this case, a male patient from Massachusetts had received the final injection of a series of vaccinations. After receiving the final injection in the series, the patient was taken to the emergency room with a high fever and symptoms of a possible seizure. After reaching the ER and being admitted to the hospital, the attending physician ordered a series of tests, all of which came back normal. During her time in the hospital, the patient was largely seen by a nurse practitioner, and not the attending physician himself. On the evidence provided by the tests, the patient was discharged from the hospital after a day, with a prescription for antibiotics and an order to follow up in two weeks time. After returning home from the hospital, the patient continued to complain of pain and a difficulty breathing. Eventually, the patient was found unresponsive by his parents, at which point he was taken back to the hospital. The patient was declared dead around one hour after reaching the hospital, with the cause of death being listed as acute pneumonia.

 

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Do you routinely treat patients like the one described above?
  • 2. Do you believe there was a deviation in the standard of care that contributed to this patient's poor outcome?
  • 3. Have you ever been the target of a malpractice claim?
  • 4. Have you ever served as an expert witness? If so, did the case involve a failure / delay in diagnosing pneumonia?
  • 5. Have you ever published on the subject of diagnosing pneumonia?

Expert Witness Response E-021702

I am a family physician who currently supervises four PAs. I do not examine every patient they see; concerning cases, such as the one described, are brought to my attention and I do examine those patients. Clearly a chest x-ray somewhere during this course might have prevented this child’s death. I would be able to review the medical records and opine on any deviations in the standard care. I have served as an expert witness in several cases, one involving pneumonia.

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