The children and the elderly are amongst the most vulnerable people in our society. These individuals often has an undeveloped or weakened immune system that leaves them susceptible to certain diseases. Fortunately, advances in medical treatment have allowed doctors to adequately treat these conditions to ensure that they don't progress to the point of causing extreme harm or death. However, this usually requires a medical professional to make an accurate and timely diagnosis.
Tragically, that was not the case in one instance where a child ended up dying due to doctor's inability to diagnose her with whooping cough. The child's mother, who subsequently filed and succeeded on a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit, indicated to medical professionals that the child had visited California where a recent outbreak of whooping cough had occurred. The child's mother claimed that she also asked doctor's to test for pertussis, but that they failed to do so.
Instead, doctors initially sent the child home with a recommendation for her to take over the counter medication. When the child returned with a worsened condition, they diagnosed her with bronchitis and suggested the use of an inhaler to deal with congestion. Mere days later, the baby was taken to the hospital after suffering seizures. She died a few days after her admittance to the hospital.
The jury in this case found in the mother's favor, denying the claim by medical professionals that they acted within the applicable standard of care. This case, as with most medical malpractice cases, relied heavily on expert testimony to define what that standard of care should have been and whether the doctors in question lived up to that standard. In these types of cases, the stakes are high and the mishandling of one legal issue can mean losing a lot. For this reason, those who find themselves affected by a failure to diagnose need to carefully consider how to best build their medical malpractice claim before proceeding.