Anytime you walk into a hospital’s emergency department in New York City, you can expect to see waiting rooms filled with people. Sometimes their ailments are simple ones, such the flu or an infection that can be easily taken care of with antibiotics. Others may have more severe health problems such as chest pain, equilibrium issues or injuries needing to be treated. Emergency room doctors often try to quickly diagnose a patient and send him or her on their way so that they can see the next one. However this can lead to fatal errors as one woman learned.
A preliminary action was filed against New York City after a 41-year-old Brooklyn mother found out that doctors had been misdiagnosing her symptoms for the previous two years. The woman was stunned to learn that she had Stage 4 lung cancer after a visit to an emergency room in 2012. What was even more shocking was the revelation that her cancer could have been discovered if doctors had looked at a chest X-ray, taken two years before, which showed that her right lung contained a 2-centimeter nodule.
The X-ray was ordered when the woman went to the same hospital emergency room for severe chest pain. However, the doctors allegedly never looked at the X-ray or saw the notes from the radiologist recommending a follow-up and possibly a CT scan. They told her she was alright and sent her home.
While this is one of the more serious emergency room errors that have been uncovered, it is not likely to be the last. When serious emergency room mistakes are made, it can be the patient, not the doctor, who pays the ultimate price.
Source: New York Daily News, “Hospital’s mistake leaves single Brooklyn mom with 6 months to live,” Heidi Evans, Jan. 6, 2013