This story is one of the saddest on this list. Not only is it horrifying to think that the medical doctors we trust could harm us, but a girl died because of it. A teenage girl came in with bacterial meningitis, showing symptoms of fever, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, and a severe headache. It’s a medical emergency and can kill a person within 72 hours. To test for the bacteria, doctors must perform a lumbar puncture, as long as there are no signs of increased intracranial pressure.
If there are signs of intracranial pressure, then “making an opening in the spinal column, even with a needle, can have the effect of opening a window on an airplane, and parts of the brain can actually be sucked through the bottom of the skull and herniate into the spinal column, resulting in death.” That sounds horrible. The good news is that treatment can begin with broad-spectrum antibiotics without doing a lumbar puncture.
With this patient in particular, “the ER resident did a quick physical exam and noticed signs of increased intracranial pressure in the teenager. He reported this to the attending physician along with his treatment plan which he planned on starting immediately. The attending physician ordered him to perform a lumbar puncture. He wavered a bit, but ultimately wanted to keep a good relationship with his attending, so he documented what he had found in the patient’s chart and then performed the lumbar puncture.”
Without any regard for the patient’s health, he went against what he was supposed to do. It ended horrendously, and the patient died all because the performing physician wanted to keep his hierarchy and in the medical field. The independently practicing physician even stated, “and guess who wasn’t included in the lawsuit brought against the hospital by the girl’s parents because of his excellent documentation?” All in all, there are tons of medical errors made every year because someone didn’t want to speak up or ruin their reputation (via Playbuzz).