Hospitals and doctors not only have an obligation to properly diagnose patients; medical professionals are also obliged to promptly inform patients of medical conditions. Doctors’ keeping diagnoses to themselves is not an option.
This standard of care also applies when a patient dies as a result of a medical condition. The hospital should tell the grieving family the medical reason for the death.
The mother of an infant boy who died in 2008 plans to bring a negligence claim against a children’s hospital that misinformed her about the possible cause of her son’s death. In fact, it was only recently that she read a news article about a fungal outbreak at the hospital and realized that a fungal infection was likely a contributing factor.
After her child died, the woman was told the cause of death was sepsis, or inflammation caused by infection. The premature infant had developed a lesion and died a few days later.
However, as news of multiple infections at the children’s hospital came to light, the mother, reading a news report, recognized her son’s symptoms as those of a patient who died at the hospital. In fact, a safety official at the hospital admitted that five fungus-infected patients died before government agencies were called to investigate.
While the official did not acknowledge that the fungus was the direct cause of any of the deaths, he did say that the hospital “dropped the ball” in its failure to inform the grieving families that their children had been infected with a fungus later found in hospital linens.
As you may know, hospitals are often not safe places for people suffering from illness or injury. We need hospitals, though, and we need them to be safe. One way of helping to ensure that medical facilities maintain a standard of care is hold them responsible when they fail.
Source: The New Orleans Advocate, “Official: Mistakes made handling fungal outbreak,” John Simerman, April 18, 2014