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Failure to Diagnose Causes Death of Boy, Age 16

A 16-year-old boy died wrongfully due to the medical malpractice of the staff of his primary care physician.

The boy was accompanied by his mother when he visited his primary care physician’s office, complaining of coughing up blood after approximately two weeks of illness. Other reported symptoms included fever, congestion, coughing and weakness.

On this visit, the boy saw a physician’s assistant (PA). The PA never consulted with a physician about the treatment of this patient.

What the PA knew:

  • One week before the visit, one of the physicians in the medical group prescribed an antibiotic for the young man to treat what was believed to be a tooth abscess.
  • The boy had been evaluated recently at a local urgent care center and emergency department, where he was tested for flu and strep. A chest X-ray was negative, as were the other tests.
  • The young man had an unrepaired ventricular septal defect. This made his risk for bacterial endocarditis significantly higher. This risk was aggravated by the recent (suspected) dental infection.

What is Bacterial Endocarditis?

According to the American Heart Association, “Infective endocarditis (IE), also called bacterial endocarditis (BE), is an infection caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and settle in the heart lining, a heart valve or a blood vessel. IE is uncommon, but people with some heart conditions have a greater risk of developing it. Infective endocarditis refers specifically to infection in the lining of the heart, but IE also affects the valves and often affects the muscles of the heart.” [Source, retrieved on 2/20/2019:]

What the PA Did

The PA considered two causes of the boy’s symptoms: bacterial endocarditis and upper respiratory infection. The PA knew about only two tests to evaluate a possible case of bacterial endocarditis: blood tests or echocardiogram. The PA ordered neither of the tests, despite the fact that they were available. Her instruction to the patient (and his mother) was that the symptoms indicated nothing serious. The PA said that the boy would improve over time. The boy was instructed to return in one week.

The Second Visit

As instructed, the boy returned to the doctor’s office. This time he was accompanied by his father. At that time, he was “acutely-ill-appearing” and had obviously become sicker. He was “talking crazy.” He reported inability to eat, drink, sleep or walk.

He was transferred to the local emergency department immediately. He was then transferred to a university medical center in the area for the purpose of providing a higher level of care. Despite all treatments provided by the staff of the medical center, the boy died of multiple organ failure secondary to bacterial endocarditis several weeks later.

The Case

The boy’s mother had been an employee of the (defendant) medical group. She was personally acquainted with the PA who failed to diagnose or treat the dangerous bacterial endocarditis. Due to the trauma of her son’s death, she resigned her job, deciding to never work in the medical field again.

The 16-year-old boy was an only child. His parents were his only legal beneficiaries. The parents filed a wrongful death action against the medical practice for the PA’s failure to diagnose and treat the boy’s bacterial endocarditis.

About five months before the scheduled trial, the medical group communicated a willingness to mediate the case. Numerous Virginia expert witnesses supported the wrongful death action. The case was resolved in mediation for $1,500,000.

All wrongful death and medical malpractice actions are tragic. When the malpractice results in the death of a 16-year-old boy it is especially tragic.

Call Altizer Law, P.C.

If you or a loved one has been harmed or hurt due to medical malpractice, or your loved one has died as a result of the malpractice, you may be entitled to recover damages in the form of a financial award (court) or settlement (negotiation). Call Altizer Law, P.C. to discuss your case with trusted attorney Bettina Altizer and her team. If you hire us to represent you, we will do so with determination and tenacity to obtain for you the highest possible financial compensation for your hurts and harms, or your loved one’s death.