Our office recently settled a case involving the death of a two-month old infant following a delayed diagnosis of bacterial meningitis.
The infant presented to the hospital with signs of a serious bacterial infection, including high fever, grunting, poor feeding, rapid heart rate and rapid breathing rate. The emergency room doctor ordered blood tests, including a complete blood count (to assess the types of cells in the blood) and a blood culture (to detect bacteria). The emergency room doctor diagnosed bronchiolitis (a viral infection). A pediatrician consulted. His notes indicated that something more was going on, but he provided no treatment.
Established guidelines called for immediate administration of antibiotic medication and a lumbar puncture. Early antibiotics are recommended because early treatment is crucial with a serious bacterial infection. The lumbar puncture would have more quickly diagnosed bacterial meningitis.
Without proper treatment, the infant’s condition quickly deteriorated and she later died of bacterial meningitis. The plaintiffs’ position was that her death could have been prevented by antibiotics and a lumbar puncture.
During the case, plaintiffs discovered laboratory records that suggested the infant was suffering from a bacterial infection. These records revealed evidence that was contrary to the understaning of the treating physicians. The case settled.