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A failure to explore other possible diagnoses leads to tragedy

It shouldn't have been hard to figure out that there was something seriously wrong with the 50-year-old man who presented in Winfield's Central DuPage Hospital one night back in 2012. He was suffering from a headache, neck pain, vomiting and disorientation.

While it's unclear what exact diagnosis the doctors at the hospital gave him, they only prescribed pain medication and sent him on his way. Had they done a simple CT scan and asked a neurologist to weigh in, the hospital would have likely discovered that the source of his pain and symptoms was a devastating brain bleed that led to a stroke two days later.

While he survived, the former attorney is left with brain damage that prevents him from remembering any new information for longer than 30 minutes, effectively destroying both his career and the enjoyment of his private life.

Can a hospital really be held responsible for missing just one opportunity to catch something so serious? Absolutely.

When you go into a hospital with a specific set of symptoms, doctors are supposed to consider what could be the likely cause of those symptoms. Those possibilities become the list of potentially different diagnoses that need to be ruled out through additional questions and medical testing. Doctors aren't supposed to just treat the symptoms and assume that, if they go away, there's nothing more to worry about.

Based on the symptoms and the treatment the former attorney received, it's probably fair to assume that doctors believed he had something non-fatal, like a migraine. They didn't bother to take the extra steps to rule out the brain bleed that was really the culprit, which made them negligent. The hospital recently settled the negligence suit with its former patient for $20 million.

In cases like this, it becomes important to have an attorney who handles the complex world of medical malpractice claims. He or she can help you determine if the doctors missed an obvious chance to diagnose you properly. If their negligence could have prevented or reduced the severity of your injuries, you may decide to take legal action.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Northwestern's Central Dupage Hospital to pay $20M malpractice settlement, Lisa Schencker, Nov. 21, 2016

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