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Fatal mistake in ER results in bacterial meningitis misdiagnosis


Medical mistakes in emergency rooms are a common topic on our Eugene medical malpractice blog. Many Oregon residents may not be aware that these mistakes are a frequent problem in hospitals across the country. Wrongful death claims and medical malpractice suits are often filed following these mistakes to provide compensation for victims and their family members.

In yet another tragic case, a mother is blaming a misdiagnosis in the emergency department on her son’s death. This past spring, her son called his mother from work complaining of a severe headache and blurred vision. They drove him to a local ER and his condition worsened. In addition to vomiting, he had a temperature of 105 degrees.

The mother was extremely concerned for her son’s health, and asked the ER nurse to perform whatever tests may be necessary to diagnose his condition. However, her son’s medical records show the ER nurse categorically disagreed. The nurse wrote in his records that he was mildly ill. She diagnosed him with sinusitis and explicitly wrote that she did not suspect meningitis. He was discharged and instructed to take Tylenol and drink plenty of fluids.

Hours after being discharged, her son woke up screaming in pain and slipped into a coma. He was placed on life support. After undergoing numerous tests, a spinal tap confirmed he had bacterial meningitis. Shortly thereafter he passed away from the disease. His mother is encouraging other parents to advocate for their children’s health. She stresses the importance to patients and their family members to not be released from a hospital when seriously ill without the staff running tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Source:, “Mother says ER misdiagnosis leads to son’s death,” Kathryn Burcham, Nov. 22, 2013