Medical Malpractice Can Send You to Jail

Medical malpractice can not only hurt you physically, it can send you to jail.  In what has now been recognized to be a case of misdiagnosis, a mother and her boyfriend were sent to jail when a doctor mistakenly told authorities that her newborn daughter had been physically abused.  The newborn’s right arm was broken in multiple places and the doctor concluded it was the result of child abuse.  The mother served 60 days in jail while the boyfriend was locked up for 2 1/2 years.  She also lost custody of her daughter.   Finally the mother hired an attorney who sought a second opinion.  The correct diagnosis was rickets, a metabolic bone disease in which the bone is weakened and prone to fracture.  While the mother now shares custody of her daughter with the baby’s father, it took seven years to accomplish and nothing can bring back the years the mother lost.  Here is a link to the story as it appeared on a Phoenix news channel.

The story quotes Dr. Michael Laposata of the University of Texas Medical Branch on the issue of misdiagnosis.  The UTMB oversees the University of Texas medical school as well as the nursing school and various research facilities.  According to Dr. Laposata misdiagnoses, both in the context of alleged child abuse and the wider context of patient care, are more common than most people realize.  Dr. Laposata believes that our medical system wastes $800 billion each year on care related to and caused by misdiagnoses.  He advocates for a system of  management teams in which doctors in many specialty areas communicate with each other and with nurses and others involved in patient care to share information so as to avoid relying on the diagnosis of a single individual.  He says that the University of California Davis Medical Center has used such teams with success.

Misdiagnosis is only one form of malpractice that is far more common than is recognized by the public at large.  Second opinions are often a good idea, especially if the issue is a significant one or you do not seem to be getting better despite the treatment ordered by your doctor.

Stay well.

Posted in Doctors, medical errors, Medical Malpractice, Medical Negligence, Misdiagnosis |