When a 5-year-old girl had swelling in her throat that did not go away, her mother brought her to a local emergency room. The doctors who examined the little girl suspected that she had a cancerous tumor and ordered a biopsy. The results of the biopsy were inconclusive, so doctors referred the family to another hospital. Immediately upon arrival at the second hospital, the doctors there began a month-long course of chemotherapy treatments for the child.
The chemotherapy treatments caused the little girl’s hair to fall out. The treatments also caused her to suffer a severe eating disorder and loss of substantial weight. Her mother kept her out of kindergarten for the month she was receiving chemo treatments. The long-term effects from receiving the chemotherapy treatments are presently unknown.
Some time after the chemotherapy treatments were completed, the mother was advised that her daughter had not had cancer after all — she had an infection and the chemotherapy treatments had been unnecessary.
The potential medical malpractice defendant (the second hospital, where the unnecessary chemotherapy treatments were given) maintains that what it did was not medical malpractice because it was reasonably suspected that the girl had an aggressive form of cancer – lymphoma – and therefore prompt and definitive treatment was appropriate under the circumstances, even before the final results of the biopsy were received.
The girl’s mother intends to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the second hospital for the allegedly unnecessary chemotherapy treatments that her daughter endured. The mother said that she was told by doctors that the treatment should be started immediately “to be on the safe side.” After she was told that her daughter had not had cancer, the mother reportedly said: “The doctor at the hospital told us: ‘those treatments were to be on the safe side’…I want to see if those doctors would send their children to chemotherapy treatments to be ‘on the safe side.'”
While the “accidental chemotherapy” in this particular case happened in Israel, the factual pattern – or a similar situation – could very well occur anywhere in the United States. When doctors are faced with potentially life-saving (or life-altering) decisions, doctors are required to use their best judgments in helping patients (and their parents, if the patients are minors) make appropriate medical treatment decisions under the circumstances. That includes fully informing the patients with all facts and opinions that they would or should want to know in making an informed decision on the medical treatments to be initiated (or not initiated) and alternative medical treatments that may be available.
If you or a family member may be the victim of medical malpractice with regard to the medical treatment provided, or not provided, you should promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney who may be willing to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you.
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