Medical Malpractice and the Flu
An Arizona woman visited her doctor on January 11 and received treatment for the same deadly strain of flu that has been making headlines throughout the U.S. for the past few months. Just two days later she was rushed to the hospital where she received emergency surgery for “flesh-eating bacteria.”
Christin Lipinski, a mother of three and a school teacher, had to have more than 30-percent of her soft tissue removed, according to her GoFundMe page. The initial diagnosis of influenza was wrong. Lipinski’s doctor had missed a crucial clue when looking at her symptoms.
“It felt like a horrible dream that you can’t wake up from,” her husband Nathan told USA Today.
Patients visit their doctors with a reasonable expectation that those medical professionals know how to diagnose what is ailing them. Failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis can be a cause for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
A medical malpractice lawsuit claims that a patient did not receive competent care from a medical professional, which includes an accurate diagnosis and a plan for the right course of treatment. Failure by doctors or staff to follow such a plan can also be viewed as medical malpractice.
Telling the Difference
As the flu season reaches its peak, it is essential for patients to know if their symptoms are caused by flu, or by something else. Had Lipinski not returned to the hospital following her flu diagnosis, there is a strong chance she would have died. Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious bacterial infection that destroys skin and muscle tissue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the infection can look like the flu at first.
Though the infection usually begins with a cut in the skin and presents as an injury that may bring soreness similar to a pulled muscle, later symptoms can include fever, chills, fatigue and vomiting – all common symptoms of the flu.
“These confusing symptoms may delay a person from seeking medical attention. If you have these symptoms after a wound, see a doctor right away,” warns the CDC.
Though not common, necrotizing fasciitis is fast moving. A 2008 study says that there is a 27-percent fatality rate. Treatment starts with antibiotics to kill the bacteria in the body, and dead or infected tissue is removed surgically.
“You can’t just go in an make a little incision,” Arizona Burn Center Director Dr. Kevin Foster told USA Today, “and if you don’t get it the first time, often times you don’t have a second chance.”
Medical Malpractice and Diagnosis
New Mexico has a three-year statute of limitation on the time in which a victim may bring a medical malpractice case to court. The first step is to establish that a diagnosis was missed. For this, it is necessary to prove that that victim and the doctor alleged to be at fault, had a doctor-patient relationship. This is usually easy to establish with medical records.
Direct liability is possible in cases involving negligence on the part of a hospital or a similar facility. Vicarious liability can also be claimed if a treatment plan for a specific patient was incorrect or inappropriate but no one questioned it.
The doctor may miss the diagnosis, may fail to recognize the urgency of a situation and delay diagnosis, or misinterpret a test that mistakenly narrows down the possible diagnosis.
Know the Differences Yourself
“Flu-like symptoms” is a common symptom of many other ailments. Knowing when to visit a doctor is as important as receiving the correct treatment.
“The common cold, flu, and pneumonia share many of the same symptoms, which can make it difficult to tell the difference. In addition, the diseases are not mutually exclusive; pneumonia can be a complication of both colds and the flu,” cautions Livestrong, a health blog.
Read here to see common ways to discern the difference between the cold, the flu and pneumonia.