Failure to diagnose illness leads to permanent injury

Patients depend on doctors to accurately diagnose and treat their illnesses. Unfortunately, misdiagnoses and failures to diagnose serious illnesses are far too common. In some cases, these sorts of medical errors can lead to permanent, debilitating injury. One recent case out of New York illustrates the problems associated with failures to diagnose and treat serious illnesses.

Myrtho Sence gave birth to her son, Jaelin, at New York Methodist Hospital in 2007. Doctors allowed Myrtho to leave the hospital with her son just two days after he was born, even though she complained that his eyes were yellowing. Jaelin's doctor did not do any sort of follow-up exam on the child, even though it was clear that he was suffering from jaundice.

Jaundice is a common condition in newborn babies and is caused by excess bilirubin in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is a normal byproduct of the breakdown of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Under normal circumstances, extra bilirubin is filtered out by the liver and is excreted through the intestines. In many cases, however, the livers of newborns are not developed enough to process the bilirubin they are producing. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that newborns typically produce more bilirubin than adults do. Jaundice is so common in newborns, in fact, that the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that all babies be checked for the condition in the days immediately following birth.

The good news is that jaundice, if treated, generally has no long-term health effects. If the condition goes untreated, however, it can lead to significant problems, including deafness and brain damage.

Sadly, because Jaelin's doctor did not check him for jaundice, his condition reached the point where he suffered both brain damage and cerebral palsy. The boy, who is now six years old, cannot move his arms and legs and unable to speak.

Recently, a jury awarded Jaelin and his family $26 million in a suit against New York Methodist Hospital. The award is significant because it allows Jaelin's family to provide him with the 24 hour nursing care he needs. The injuries Jaelin suffered are particularly heartbreaking because they were so easily preventable. Although the hospital has said it sympathizes with Jaelin, it continues to deny any wrongdoing.

If you have suffered a serious injury due to an error by a doctor, nurse or hospital, think about talking to a medical malpractice attorney. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills and pain and suffering.