Medical Misdiagnosis Leads to Six-Year-Old’s Death, Says Lawsuit
A medical misdiagnosis by an emergency room physician led to the death of a six-year-old boy in Dallas, Texas. The parents of that child have now filed a malpractice lawsuit against the physician, hospital and medical center where the child was treated. The parents allege a series of errors led to the misdiagnosis and the death of their son just a few hours after he was discharged from the medical center.
Lawsuit alleges injuries missed by hospital staff
Robert Llanas Sr. and Cristal Mendoza filed their lawsuit in Dallas County Court on February 24, 2014. The couple state in their complaint that they took their son, Robert Llanas Jr., to the emergency room at Children’s Medical Center after running into a pole and falling onto concrete on his school’s playground. When he arrived at the emergency room, hospital personnel reported he was pale and “writhing in pain.”
Although these symptoms are consistent with an internal injury, the emergency room physician, Dr. Abbie Leigh Smith, diagnosed Llanas with constipation and treated him with enemas at the medical center. She discharged Llanas a short time later with a prescription for laxatives. The plaintiffs allege the enemas given to the boy masked the symptoms of the internal injuries and although blood tests and x-rays were performed, a diagnosis of an internal injury was not made.
Death occurs hours after errors
Llanas Sr. states in the complaint that just four hours after his son returned home, he began to lose consciousness. Llanas called an ambulance, but the child died in the ambulance on route to the hospital. The autopsy showed young Llanas died from a lacerated left kidney, internal hemorrhaging and additional injuries to his right kidney, pancreas and intestine.
The Dallas Business Journal reports the parents in the lawsuit allege negligence on the part of Dr. Smith, Children’s Medical Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center contributed to their child’s medical misdiagnosis and death. The suit also states the child was inadequately examined and the staff made other medical mistakes that led to the missed internal injuries. None of the defendants named in the complaint commented on the lawsuit.
Misdiagnosis a common medical error
Misdiagnosis is a relatively common error, according to a recent report from the National Center for Policy Analysis. The report found that 10-20% of all cases are misdiagnosed. That percentage is higher than for drug or surgical errors. As a whole, preventable medical errors are one of the most common causes of death in the United States, resulting in approximately 98,000 deaths annually.
Misdiagnosis can be a potentially deadly error for some patients, like Llanas. One report cited by the National Center for Policy Analysis showed as many as 28% of diagnosis errors could result in death or permanent disability. The center also found that a large majority of physicians, 96%, felt that most errors in diagnosis could be prevented.
The plaintiffs in this gross negligence case are seeking $250,000 in damages, which is the maximum amount allowed by the state. However, the parents of the deceased child told the local news station KHOU the lawsuit was not about money, but about holding the hospital and staff responsible for their error. Llanas Sr. told KHOU, “I trusted the doctor, what the doctor said. I just want to make parents aware.”