Widow Wins $4.2 Million Verdict after Doctor Misdiagnosis

Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on a recent malpractice lawsuit concerning North Cypress Medical Center located near Houston, Texas. The jury awarded the widow $4.2 million after her husband was misdiagnosed by a North Cypress physician and ultimately died as a result.

The man was only 46-years-old when he passed away from severe buildup of spinal fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus). Evidence produced at trial showed that emergency room physicians initially properly diagnosed his condition, which is treated with a drainage tube implanted in the brain. Another doctor, Victor Kareh, rejected that diagnosis and refused to provide the man with the treatment he needed.

Further illuminating the malpractice, the man, Lancer Windrum, underwent an MRI and CT scan at the medical center which unambiguously showed the fluid buildup. Windrum also showed multiple symptoms of such a condition, with slurred speech, headaches, and confusion.

Instead of treating him, Dr. Kareh decided to monitor Windrum for 24 hours before making a precise diagnosis, despite Windrum suffering from three previous episodes of the same type within the few months prior. After the 24-hour delay, Kareh decided the patient was not suffering from spinal fluid buildup and sent him home to his wife and three children.

Windrum first visited Dr. Kareh in early February 2010, and visited him several times after that with the same exact symptoms consistent with those for hydrocephalus. Dr. Kareh, however, ordered tests unrelated to his suspected condition, failed to treat him appropriately and repeatedly sent him home without aid. Finally, on May 2, 2010, Windrum passed away in his home.

Throughout trial it became clear that Kareh significantly deviated from the standard level of care for Windrum, ignoring the opinions of his fellow physicians and failing to adequately read his MRI and CT scans. Windrum’s symptoms were classic signs of hydrocephalus, and treatments for this condition are straight-forward and would have saved his life. The doctor’s negligence in this case was clear, resulting in a substantial verdict for his family.

A recent article in the Washington Post highlights the troubling prevalence of misdiagnoses in the United States. Most people, even patients with ambiguous ailments, do not consider the serious repercussions of a misdiagnosis until they hear or experience a situation similar to Windrum’s. Some instances of misdiagnosis are relatively minor. Others can be devastating and result in permanent disability or loss of life.

Itzhak Brook, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, was experiencing chronic throat pain in 2006, which his doctors told him was simple acid reflux. After seven months of complaining, a particularly astute resident located a tumor in Brooks’ throat which turned out to be cancerous. The tumor was the size of a peach pit, and was found using simple procedures that his head and neck physicians never thought to attempt.

Because of the seven-month lag in diagnosis, Brooks had to undergo extensive surgery to remove his voice box which left him speaking in a permanent whisper. He believes that this procedure would not have been necessary had his cancer been detected earlier. Patient safety experts affirm that Brooks’ situation is actually extremely common: missed, incorrect, or delayed diagnoses affect between 10 and 20% of all medical cases.

This percentage far exceeds surgical and drug errors, which receive much more attention by the media and public than misdiagnoses. A 2009 report found that 28% of misdiagnoses reported by doctors were life-threatening or resulted in serious injury. Another analysis estimated that 40,500 people died from diagnostic errors in intensive care units each year.

Studies of this kind usually conclude that diagnostic errors are the result of flawed ways of thinking and practicing medicine rather than blatant malpractice. Compounding this, U.S. hospitals generally fail to even keep track of diagnostic errors, despite the overuse of newly developed, high-expense tests.

Medical negligence lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm affirm that diagnostic errors are the nation’s leading cause of malpractice lawsuits, and are most prevalent among primary care doctors. Filing a lawsuit after receiving a wrong diagnosis is the most efficient and effective way to change how hospitals and physicians practice diagnostics overall. Many have implemented quality assurance programs as a result of litigation, or simply become more reflective and attuned to errors, saving the lives of countless other patients.

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