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Failure to Treat Infection / Sepsis – Malpractice

The United States Government has agreed to pay a former Utah family nearly $1 million to settle a medical malpractice case involving failure to treat infection / sepsis. The man was being treated for leukemia at at a Veterans Affairs hospital in 2004 when he developed a severe infection and died. His surviving wife and daughter filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the hospital told him to take gas-x instead of going to the emergency room to get antibiotics. He died of sepsis from a low white-blood-cell count.

The man was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2004 and received chemotherapy at the VA in October. Three days after his last treatment, he had diarrhea and abdominal pain. After calling the hospital to see what to do, his wife was told by an oncology doctor that the man should take an over-the-counter medicine for gas. What he really needed were antibiotics immediately to fight off a severe infection. His white blood cell count was low, due to the chemotherapy, which led to a bacterial infection in his colon. The man died four days before his 46th birthday and his 18th wedding anniversary. His leukemia was in remission and he was expected to live for at least another five years.
A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

I had a case almost exactly like this, where a woman had been diagnosed with lymphoma and was receiving chemotherapy and a steroid that hid the usual tell-tale signs of infection. She subsequently developed an infection, but the doctors never told her to watch for very subtle signs of infection that she would see on the steroid and she died. It was tragic because this woman was extremely bright, intelligent and wanted to know everything she could about her health. Had she been warned, she certainly would have made efforts to prevent an infection, kept close watch for an infection and been treated before it could kill her.