Rendering an accurate and timely diagnosis is essential for the safety of all patients in North Carolina. Any failure to do so could result in serious and even permanent injury, as was the case for an out-of-state patient who now lives with incapacitating brain damage. A medical malpractice suit filed by her family recently ended with an award of $7.4 million for damages.
In early Oct. 2013, the then 76-year-old woman went to an emergency room complaining of a chronic cough. An X-ray found what looked to be a mass somewhere in her lungs, and doctors suspected that she might have lung cancer. It is unclear what testing followed this initial discovery, but she was back in the hospital later that same month. Doctors performed an MRI and discovered lesions that could either be the result of spreading lung cancer or an infection in her brain.
At that point, attending doctors focused their attention on the possibility of lung cancer, and failed to order antibiotics for the suspected brain infection. The doctors defended this decision by pointing to the patient's smoking habit, but the jury clearly did not agree with their conclusion. While at the hospital, she did not display any symptoms of lung cancer, such as a fever or elevated white blood cell count. By the time doctors finally realized what was really going on it was too late, and she can no longer use either of her legs or her left arm, has limited mental functioning and can no longer perform essential care tasks.
Medical malpractice suits often involve large settlements or awards because victims usually have to deal with the lingering effects for years to come. However, compensation is for more than just the economic side of an injury, like ongoing medical costs and lost wages. North Carolina victims who successfully pursue these types of claims to completion can also achieve compensation for emotional trauma and ongoing pain and suffering.