Recently, we had a client by the name of Fatima. While we care about all our clients, Fatima's story struck us. Around the year 2014, Fatima's primary care doctor started noticing abnormalities in her blood work and urine results but refused to refer her to a specialist.
Meantime, the medical practice where Fatima was a patient was closed down. As the practice had multiple locations, she started seeing another doctor from a different location. Once the doctor saw her results he referred her to a cardiologist and from there the cardiologist referred her to a nephrologist (kidney doctor.) That's when Fatima found out that she had total kidney failure or end-stage renal disease, due to lupus and that she needed dialysis.
Fatima is currently having dialysis and will have to keep doing dialysis until she gets a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, lupus is an autoimmune disease for which there is no cure yet. The danger is that, even after a transplant, the disease may start to become active again and attack the new kidney. Most people can expect a transplant to last a decade or more, but they may need to get dialysis and another transplant down the line.
As the saying goes, "timing is everything." The danger of lupus can range from light to severe. Early diagnosis, the right medication and proper treatment can keep the disease in a chronic, but manageable phase, so it does not progress to end-stage renal disease.
After finding out her diagnosis, Fatima decided she wanted to go forward with a medical malpractice lawsuit because the doctors who saw her did not do their due diligence.
Lupus is a commonly misdiagnosed autoimmune disease. Patients may develop an overactive and hyper-protective immune system that damages both harmful foreign organisms and healthy native systems, such as organs. This disease can affect any organ or groups of organs, resulting in inflammation and organ failure.
When lupus attacks the kidneys, the term used for the disease is lupus nephritis. In the most severe cases of lupus nephritis, the kidneys may fail and the patient will need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Lupus is more common in women ages 15-50 and lupus nephritis mostly impacts and is more severe in African Americans and Hispanics.
Unfortunately, misdiagnosis of lupus is not uncommon because many of its warning signs and symptoms could be attributed to other diseases such as Lyme disease or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Dialysis and Kidney Transplant for End-Stage Renal Disease
In the United States, millions suffer from the symptoms of kidney disease. Due to the subtle nature of many symptoms, for some patients, the cause of kidney disease is never correctly determined and many live with the disease for many years without realizing it.
The right treatment depends on the precise type of kidney failure, the degree of kidney damage that has occurred and the point in the disease process when a diagnosis is made. Lupus nephritis, for example, is treated using prescription drugs such as anti-inflammatory and immuno-suppressant drugs.
End-stage renal disease is the total or near total loss of kidney function and is a permanent condition. People suffering from end-stage renal failure must receive a kidney transplant or go on dialysis.
Kidney Disease Diagnosis Delayed By Lack Of Testing Or Referral
Sadly, many who suffer the ill effects of kidney disease would be much healthier if their doctors had tested and referred them to specialists as early as possible. In the early stages, urine tests and possibly a biopsy can lead to an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. General practitioners are mostly not trained or equipped to treat kidney disease, so when tests indicate kidney abnormalities, failing to refer the patient to a kidney specialist may be medical negligence. Kidney doctors test and treat most of their patients on the basis of referrals from general practitioners.
With the proper approach, kidney diseases can usually be stopped at the chronic stage and sometimes reversed. That is why negligent treatment that involves kidney disease puts lives at risk.
When it comes to dealing with a failure to issue a referral, these situations are the reasons medical malpractice claims are made:
- Poor examination resulting in a failure to recognize a potentially serious injury, or a failure to order the appropriate diagnostic tests
- Poor overall evaluation of any physical symptoms
- Development or worsening of injuries or illnesses as the result of a failure to refer
- Misdiagnosis of a condition, an error that would not have happened if the care was in the hands of a specialist in that particular area
The costs incurred by patients harmed by a failure to refer are:
- Further treatment costs. If a patient is not referred to a specialist, a potentially serious injury or illness could become worse and require additional treatment as a result. This cost is generally part of an injury compensation claim.
- Loss of income. A patient may be required to take additional time off work to receive treatment from current or developing illnesses or injuries.
- Emotional distress. A great deal of pain, either from the original condition or developing complications, can cause much distress for both the patient and their family.
If your doctor failed to properly test for kidney disease or to refer you to a specialist when that was the reasonable thing to do, talk to an attorney to see if you have a case. At The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary, our experienced lawyer is here to provide you with the legal help you need to get the compensation you deserve for the damage to your health. Schedule a free consultation by calling 305.416.9805 or use our contact page.