Was the doctor negligent for failing to identify meningitis symptoms? Which case won?
Patient suffers from neck pain and headaches
In early September 2008, a woman, who was then 43, began suffering from neck pain and headaches. She consulted a chiropractor, but the pain and headaches continued.
The woman consulted her GP due to worsening neck pain, severe headaches and facial flushing. The GP advised her to continue with chiropractic treatment and with the pain medication she was currently taking.
Patient’s symptoms worsen and condition continues to decline
When the woman next consulted her GP six days later, the neck pain and headaches had further worsened and she was also complaining of dizziness and loss of strength in her left leg. The GP referred her for a CT scan of the spine and prescribed additional medication.
The following day, the woman was reviewed by her GP with the results of the CT scan, which revealed five bulging discs in her cervical spine. The GP advised the patient that her symptoms were related to her spinal condition and advised bed rest for a week.
During that time, the patient’s symptoms significantly deteriorated. When she was reviewed by her GP a further six days later, she was referred to a local private hospital.
Diagnosis of cryptococcal meningitis and development of catastrophic injuries
By the following day, the patient had developed alarming symptoms, including neck swelling and profound deafness. Following tests undertaken at the hospital that day, the patient was diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis, which caused her to suffer a number of permanent disabilities, the most significant of which were loss of hearing and blindness.
The patient sued her GP for negligence in not undertaking a proper examination or making proper enquiries in relation to her symptoms. The patient alleged that her GP should have referred her for tests and treatment which would have led to an early diagnosis of her illness and avoided the catastrophic injuries that she suffered.