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Last month a baby boy in Perth tragically died after he was sent home from two hospitals and a doctor’s surgery.

Repeated misdiagnosis by medical practitioners

Nicole Thompson, the mother of the seven-month-old baby, noticed that her son had developed a fever, rash and restricted movement on the right side of his body. When she took him to hospital, staff allegedly dismissed her concerns and told her that he was teething and suffering from a ‘pulled’ elbow. The following day, he started vomiting. He was rushed to hospital but was again sent home after being assessed by hospital staff. His condition deteriorated further over the next few days and he was taken back to hospital where he was placed on life support. He was diagnosed with meningococcal but by then, no treatment could save his life.

Sadly, this is not an isolated case. In 2007, Sydney boy Israelu Pele died in similar circumstances after he was sent home from two hospitals and a doctor’s surgery. He was diagnosed with benign viral gastroenteritis by his GP and treated with Panadol. When he presented at two major Sydney hospitals, staff continued to treat him for a stomach bug instead of carrying out the requisite blood tests and a lumbar puncture which would have identified meningitis as the cause of his symptoms. Israelu died a few days later following a heart attack.

These two cases highlight a systemic issue in the diagnosis of patients. Doctors must give weight to all concerns expressed by the parents when reaching a conclusion about any diagnosis. Parents’ concerns can often be dismissed as overreactive. Medical providers can be ‘anchored’ to a particular diagnosis based on patients they have previously seen without taking into consideration the worst possible outcome. When lives are at stake, one can only wonder what the benefit of dismissing a serious complaint can be in the face of the possible risk of doing so.

The tragedy is that both of the above cases were preventable. Following the most recent case, a coroner is expected to investigate and release his findings in the upcoming months.

At Turner Freeman Lawyers, we specialise in medical negligence claims. If you or someone you know has suffered from medical treatment which you believe was not appropriate, we encourage you to call 13 43 63 to speak with one of our medical law experts today.

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