A failure to diagnose a lodged pill has led to a medical malpractice suit after an elderly woman died as a result. According to the lawsuit, the 80-year-old woman died a “painful, horrific and unnecessary death” after four different doctors failed to diagnose that a pill had become lodged in her throat. The lodged pill reportedly burned a hole in the woman’s pulmonary artery.
Cases like this one highlight just how quickly a medical condition can escalate from concerning to tragic. How, in a matter of days or weeks, something that should be simple to treat can result in a needless string of illness, pain, and even preventable death.
Failure to diagnose is one of the most common, unfortunate medical errors plaguing the U.S. healthcare system. If you or someone you love has been harmed by a doctor’s failure to diagnose an injury or illness, contact Brown & Brothers to learn more about your legal rights. You may be eligible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit like the one discussed in this article.
Failure to Diagnose Lawsuit Information
The circumstances leading up to our tragic example case began in February 2015. As she took her daily medications, the victim reported one of the pills going “down the wrong way”. Her husband called her primary care doctor who instructed them to go to the emergency room (ER). At this time, she had been coughing for an extended period of time and was short of breath.
At the ER, she was evaluated via X-rays of the neck and chest, and was listed as status post-choking. She was sent home with orders to restrict her diet to soft food for a couple of days until she felt better. Three days later, she had not improved, however, and she returned to the ER. Another X-ray was performed and was ruled normal. According to the lawsuit, it was concluded that she was suffering from an exacerbation of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and she was prescribed prednisone and codeine cough medication.
In March 2015, the victim followed up with her primary care doctor who ordered additional X-rays and prescribed an antibiotic to go along with the prednisone. Her doctor also advised her to consult with a surgeon about performing an endoscopy to check for chemical pneumonitis. Upon review of the X-ray, the primary care doctor noted an abnormality indicating possible tumor or infection. He advised her to cancel the appointment with the surgeon, and instead recommended she see a pulmonologist.
In the following days, the victim met with the pulmonologist at which point she was still experiencing difficulty swallowing, wheezing, and coughing. According to the lawsuit, the pulmonologist diagnosed a cough but concluded it was “unlikely” that there was a foreign body in her airway. She was ordered to continue prednisone and cough medication, but stopped the antibiotics. Her doctor reportedly had a contingency plan that included a CT scan to check for aspiration or bronchiectasis.
On March 19, 2015, the victim contacted the pulmonologist reporting that she was not feeling any better. She did not hear back from him, so she contacted her primary care doctor for help. She was connected to the doctor’s staff, who were ordered to find out what symptoms the victim was experiencing. Within hours of that phone call, she was found by her husband in the bathroom of their home after calling for help. A rescue team was dispatched, but despite their best efforts, she passed away there.
Failure to Diagnose and Unnecessary Death
After her death, the medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was “erosion of the right mainstream bronchus by an aspirated pill resulting in a bronchopulmonary fistula with fatal hemoptysis”. In simpler terms, she essentially drowned in her own blood after the pill burned away enough tissue between her airway and the pulmonary artery to cause bleeding into her airway. The medical malpractice lawsuit claims that had the series of doctors seen accurately diagnosed the lodged pill, the woman would not have suffered the injury to the pulmonary artery and would not have died as a result.
Cases like this one, unfortunately, are not altogether uncommon. In 2016, John Hopkins Medicine researchers listed medical errors as the third leading cause of death among Americans, falling only behind heart disease and cancer. Further review into the number of misdiagnosis errors indicate that as many as five percent of U.S. adults seeking medical care will experience an error in diagnosis. It is further estimated that diagnostic errors could contribute up to 10 percent of all patient deaths, and 17 percent of adverse medical events in hospitals.
In terms of medical malpractice lawsuits, claims related to a failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis are among the most common type of medical malpractice lawsuit resulting in a paid claim. These cases are also at least twice as likely to result in patient death than other forms of medical malpractice or negligence.
How to Get Help with Failure to Diagnose Questions or Concerns
The team at Brown & Brothers has discussed failure to diagnose errors with readers in previous posts. Our attorneys have also witnessed the harm caused when doctors fail to diagnose and treat patients in a timely, acceptable manner. Our team of medical malpractice attorneys is dedicated to helping clients get the justice and compensation they deserve.
Medical errors, including failure to diagnose, are considered “never events” because they should never happen. When the “never” becomes reality and you or a loved one is harmed as a result, you deserve answers and the opportunity to recover your losses.
To schedule a free case review with one of our attorneys, fill out our online form. Our staff is extremely responsive and will connect you with an attorney right away.