Can septic shock be caused by negligent medical care?

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Yes - we've seen it.  Remember, "negligent medical care" just means a hospital or health care provider did not follow established patient safety rules - and that caused a preventable medical mistake.

Septic shock is an overwhelming infection in the body with a significant inflammatory response  - it leads to extremely low blood pressure and is life threatening.  It is a medical emergency that has to be recognized and treated immediately.  Typically a patient is moved to the ICU and immediate treatment that may include oxygen, antibiotics, fluids, drugs to combat the inflammatory response and hopefully limit organ damage are instituted.

It can be caused by a bacterial infection and many times symptoms include lightheadedness, very high or low temperatures, shortness of breath.  And it affects the very old and the very young - meaning septic shock can be misdiagnosed in children.

And as every parent knows, a child's condition can deteriorate rapidly.  Their bodies just don't have the reserves or strength of an adult.

Because septic shock requires immediate treatment and the treatment is known, most medical malpractice cases involving septic shock are based on a delayed or missed diagnosis by a pediatrician or ER physician.  These providers have a duty to timely assess and diagnose patients, especially children, to identify life threatening illnesses that can be treated.

In one of our cases, a Maryland hospital emergency room let a child sit in their exam room, where he was seen initially but not really examined, for several hours.  By the time a doctor in the ER made the diagnosis, and the child was moved to the ICU and medications and therapy started, he lost two limbs and a portion of another.


Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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Experienced DC Workers' Comp, Long Term Disability & Accident Lawyer