A 26-year old mother of two came to the emergency room complaining of a headache. She had a complicated medical history and was pregnant. She had no fever, neck pain or altered mental signs.
Over approximately seven hours in the ER, attempts were made to treat the headache and diagnose what was causing it. Despite their efforts, the emergency room doctors did not did not reach a diagnosis. They brought in the neurology service and, finally, when the patient began seizing after a CT and an MRI, the neurosurgery service was asked to assist. Ultimately, the patient was pronounced dead two days later.
Upon post-mortem examination, the cause of death was determined to be bacterial meningitis. This was never diagnosed and the doctors were criticized for failing to do certain types of tests.
The defense was based on the reasonableness of the actions taken, given the patient’s presentation and medical history.