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Man alleges misdiagnosis resulted in amputations

Residents in Oregon and across the country often benefit from a generally high level of medical care. Yet a recent case illustrates that medical errors can still occur, despite state-of-the-art care, when human negligence or mistake is involved.

A man has brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against his treating doctor and hospital, alleging that repeated misdiagnosis of an infection in his hands and limbs foreclosed his care options, ultimately leaving no choice but amputation.

The man initially consulted with the hospital in 2011 because his son had a case of methicillin-sensitive staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), a type of infection that frequently results in skin sores, and which is usually treatable with antibiotics. It is also contagious, and can be spread by skin-to-skin contact.

The man’s son was treated, yet when the man returned to the hospital a few weeks later with a similar sore, he was not given any antibiotics. When the man returned a few days later with another sore, this time on his shoulder, he claims he was still not correctly diagnosed or prescribed antibiotics. Instead, the man was diagnosed with bursitis and told his shoulder sore was unrelated to his first sore — or to his son’s recent infection. Ultimately, the man’s aggressive case of MSSA progressed to the point where amputation was the only remaining treatment.

The tragedy in this case is that a proper standard of medical care would likely have prevented the amputation. A proper diagnosis and a course of antibiotics would likely have cured his infection. Although a successful medical malpractice suit cannot reverse the amputation, the recovery will help cover medical bills and long-term loss of income. It may also bring some peace of mind to the man and his wife, who say they hope the lawsuit will force the hospital to mend its apparently negligent policies.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, “Amputee suing N. Calif. hospital for malpractice,” Nov. 16, 2012