While cases of medical negligence are certainly not unheard-of – we have already heard about the case where surgical items being accidentally left inside a patient’s body post-op and the case of TCM treatment gone awry. Sometimes, medical mistakes are the unpleasant outcome of a series of mistakes borne of a flawed system.

Whatever the case, these are not only a cause of action for most patients against their doctors, the medical errors can also take a visceral toll on the patient’s health. Here are five unforeseen cases of medical negligence.

1. Brain haemorrhage mistaken for alcohol intoxication

A man known only as ‘Mr A’ was found at the bottom of a flight of stairs on 31 March 2015 after attending a wine-tasting event, and was sent to hospital shortly before 7pm. A doctor later concluded that he was "drunk and incapable with no significant injuries".

Despite his mother’s complaints that he appeared "extremely disorientated and incoherent", Mr A was pronounced medically fit to leave and discharged the following morning. At home, his condition worsened, and he was rushed to Wishaw General Hospital where a CT scan showed he had a large brain haemorrhage.

Despite an emergency brain surgery at the Southern General in Glasgow, he continues to suffer from seizures as well as speech and memory problems, which affect his employment.

An investigation by the SPSO revealed that Mr A should have had a CT scan upon being admitted to hospital. He could have undergone surgery 24 hours earlier if the health board had "followed the correct procedures".

2. Negligence of seven doctors and two nurses caused hospital $25.6 million verdict

In August 2009, Carl Beauchamp visited the Providence Hospital in Rhode Island after a head injury. In less than 48 hours, staff misdiagnosed, failed to check on him and perform the required diagnostic procedures, failed to inform other staff about his condition and missed signs of his deteriorating condition.

His brain-swelling was not tended to, causing him irreversible brain damage – suffering cognitive, vision, speech and motor problems, he is wheelchair-bound and cannot live without permanent care.

"What was striking about what happened is that so many people were negligent, and that negligence occurred over a 40- hour period of time. That's hard to accept," said Mark Mandell, Beauchamps’ lawyer.

The jury delivered a USD $25.6 million verdict against Rhode Island Hospital in the largest negligence verdict ever in the state.

3. Child’s tumour was missed by doctors for seven months

A five-year-old child was referred to a paediatrician at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, UK, in January 2014, for vomiting and headaches. He visited the doctor three more times until July in that same year, but was not diagnosed correctly until August. After collapsing at home, he was admitted to the hospital as an emergency, and scans showed that he had a brain tumour.

Due to the delayed diagnosis and treatment, the tumour could not be removed completely despite the boy having undergone a "lengthy and difficult" surgery. Subsequently, he had to go for chemotherapy, which resulted in neurological defects.

Following a complaint made by the boy’s mother against the health board, an investigation by Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, which consulted paediatric specialists, confirmed that an earlier brain scan and diagnosis "would have meant a smaller tumour and a shorter, less challenging operation".

4. Children robbed of mother after premature birth

Amy Lam, 34, was expecting a second son in August last year. She delivered the baby prematurely, in her home with the help of a neighbour, and was transported to the closest hospital, Harlem Hospital in New York, whereby after a delay, doctors tried, unsuccessfully, to remove her undelivered placenta.

Towards the end of the surgery, Lam went into shock, her blood pressure dropped, and it was suspected she had begun to haemorrhage. She received rapid blood transfusions in the ICU to no avail. Doctors then requested consent from her spouse, Gilbert Kwok, 33, to perform an additional “exploratory” procedure.

Kwok was never made aware of the severity of his wife’s condition. As he was told the surgery would take hours, he went home to take care of their son. At 10pm the same day, he was phoned and informed that his wife’s heart had stopped. She passed away 37 minutes later.

Nearly two months after Lam’s death, an autopsy from the New York City medical examiner’s office is still pending – Lam’s loved ones still have no idea why she died. The family has filed a notice of claim against the hospital on the basis of malpractice and medical negligence. MIMS

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