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Can a prior condition cause a failure to diagnose a new one?

Many Illinois residents suffer from more than one ailment throughout their digestive system. For instance, having an ulcer is separate from suffering from Crohn's Disease (an inflammatory bowel disease that can strike any portion of the digestive system, including the stomach). This distinction became the center of a medical malpractice suit in another state, filed due to a failure to diagnose an ulcer in a patient suffering from Crohn's. 

In May 2011, a man previously diagnosed with Crohn's suffered from abdominal pain. At that time, he was otherwise a healthy and active 47-year-old man. At that time, doctors identified his pain as being an exacerbation of his prior condition and sent him on his way. The man asserted that no other diagnosis was considered.

It turned out that the Maryland man was actually suffering from a perforated ulcer. After being in and out of the hospital for three years and undergoing over 12 surgical procedures, he is now left with a condition called short-bowel syndrome. He can no longer care for himself, let alone work. The jury awarded him the approximate total of $28 million. Some of that amount was awarded to his wife for the damage done to their marital relationship. 

The failure to diagnose a patient's condition correctly or in a timely manner can cost the patient -- and his or her family -- dearly. An Illinois resident's symptoms should not be dismissed due to a previously diagnosed condition that may include similar complaints. If a doctor fails to meet the accepted standard of care by ignoring the potential for a new issue, a claim for medical malpractice may be appropriate.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Baltimore jury awards $28 million damages in malpractice case", Lorraine Mirabella, Sept. 4, 2015

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