A Boston man has been awarded $18.4 million by a federal jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit involving a failure to diagnose HIV. In a tragic example of how a disease can progress to catastrophic levels when not properly diagnosed or treated, this case highlights the importance of accurate and timely diagnosis.
Read on to learn more about this case, the dangers of failure to diagnose, and what you can do to protect your health and your legal rights. If you have questions about your doctor’s responsibilities, or your rights as a patient, contact Brown & Brothers to learn more.
HIV Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Information
In 2007, a 48-year-old man saw his doctors and consented to a number of tests in an effort to determine what was causing facial paralysis. During that visit, he consented to an HIV test after a healthcare provider present suggested that his symptoms were “highly suggestive of HIV infection”. The man was gay, and had previously worked as a paramedic – a job which made him more susceptible to diseases like HIV due to exposure to bodily fluids. For the patient, an HIV test made good sense.
Despite consenting to an HIV test, his doctors never performed one. One of his doctors cancelled the test without telling him, and noted on his record that there was “no risk of HIV”, but testing would be “considered”. When he saw the same doctor to review the test results, he was told that the tests “looked good”. The patient believed that this statement included the HIV test, which he had consented to and was expecting to have been performed.
Around three years later, the patient’s condition had continued to worsen. After learning that he had not been tested in 2007 as he believed, a different doctor recommended that he be tested for HIV, and the result came back positive. What’s more, the disease had progressed to a diagnosis of AIDS. By this time, the man had suffered brain damage, which caused catastrophic damage to his health, life, and career as a lawyer.
The man filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the two doctors who failed to perform the initial HIV test in 2007, alleging that they were negligent in caring for him, and that negligence caused the injuries he suffered. In June 2018, a federal jury in Boston agreed that the doctors were negligent in causing his injuries, and awarded the patient $18.4 million in damages.
Now that the patient has a firm diagnosis, he has been able to control his AIDS-related symptoms with proper medication and treatment. The jury’s award will no doubt go a long way toward ensuring he has access to adequate medical care and treatment for the foreseeable future.
HIV Testing Information
As a general rule, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidelines and recommendations for HIV testing. HIV testing recommendations are not strictly limited to individuals who are gay or bisexual. There are several circumstances and factors that may put patients at a greater risk of contracting HIV. These risk factors include:
- STDs, including syphilis, rectal gonorrhea, or Chlamydia
- Working in an environment with the presence of bodily fluids, such as paramedics, doctors, nurses, bio-hazard cleaners, laboratory workers, etc.
- Exposure to drug use involving needles
- Incarceration (primarily men)
The CDC HIV testing guidelines include the following:
- All patients between 13 and 64 years old should be screened for HIV at least once during this age range.
- Gay and bisexual men, and transgender women should be tested for HIV every year.
- Pregnant women should be screened for HIV during routine prenatal laboratory testing.
- Women living in areas with elevated HIV rates should be re-tested during the third trimester.
- Individuals who work in high-risk environments should be routinely tested.
If you are concerned about how your lifestyle, work environment, or the community in which you live may affect your risk of contracting HIV, talk to your doctor to learn more about your individual risk factors and overall health.
Dangers of Undiagnosed HIV
According to the CDC, as of 2011, around 16 percent of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV were unaware that they were infected. Without a proper diagnosis, treatment cannot be initiated to address symptoms and prevent the disease from developing into AIDS. Further, people who have acute HIV are incredibly contagious, and may spread the infection without realizing it if they have not been properly diagnosed.
When doctors fail to diagnose HIV, the results can be catastrophic. As described in the above medical malpractice lawsuit information, HIV can progress to AIDS without proper diagnosis and treatment. When that happens, symptoms can quickly progress from mild to severe.
The symptoms of HIV are often flu-like, and may resemble a number of other conditions or diseases. The most common symptoms include:
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Mouth ulcers
- Swollen lymph nodes
Once HIV progresses to AIDS, the symptoms worsen and can be damaging to your health. The most common symptoms of AIDs include:
- Recurring fever
- Profuse night sweats
- Extreme or unexplained fatigue/tiredness
- Rapid weight loss
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
- Sores in the mouth or genitals
- Neurologic disorders, memory loss, or depression
If you have any of these symptoms and are at-risk of contracting HIV, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible about getting an HIV test. Without getting a test, you could be contagious, or could be putting yourself at risk of developing more serious health conditions like AIDS. Because the symptoms of HIV and AIDS are also symptoms of numerous other illnesses, it is incredibly important to get the correct tests in order to maintain your health and get the appropriate treatment.
Have Questions about Adequate Diagnosis or Treatment?
If you have questions about adequate diagnosis or treatment, medical malpractice, or what your legal rights are as a patient, contact Brown & Brothers to request a free consultation. Fill out our online form or call our office at 1-877-761-0905 to get started.