Failure to Make a Proper Diagnosis

We can all agree that most healthcare providers–from EMTs to our family doctor to the staff of medical facilities–do excellent work for their patients. Occasionally, however, a healthcare practitioner can make a medical error in diagnosis or treatment, commonly known as malpractice. Malpractice doesn’t mean that the provider had a specific intention to cause harm. Instead, it means that the provider acted in a negligent or perhaps careless manner (in general, negligence is what the law calls a failure to use reasonable care or acting unreasonably under the circumstances) in rendering the treatment. 

In one of the personal injury cases that I handled, a client went to an immediate care center with flu-like symptoms and five-to-six nosebleeds for several days prior to her visit. This occurred during flu season. The client saw a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor. The nurse practitioner diagnosed the client with the flu, but failed to examine her nose. Nor did she examine the patient in a gown so that she could see the skin on the torso, trunk, and upper extremities. If the nurse practitioner had followed this protocol, she would have noted bruising in various stages of healing, which–along with the nose bleeds–would have required a CBC (complete blood count). This would, in turn, have revealed the patient’s true diagnosis: promyelocytic leukemia–a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. 

My client went home but returned to the emergency room two days later with a brain bleed. She now has a very serious, permanent brain injury. Several points can be learned from this encounter; we will pick up this discussion in the next blog entry.

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