Medicolegal Issues

In Appendicitis Case, Patient Sues Clinic, Clinic Sues NP

In addition to discussing the legal technicalities of the case, David M. Lang explains "the two things in medicine that you need to know well."

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A 17-year-old girl with diminished appetite, abdominal pain, and vomiting presented to a pediatrics clinic in New York, where she was examined by an NP. She was found to have hematuria as well, and the NP diagnosed viral gastroenteritis.

Eight days later, the patient returned to the clinic with worsening pain. The pediatrician who examined her had her transported to a hospital, where a ruptured appendix was diagnosed. The patient underwent immediate surgery, which included resection of portions of her colon and intestines.

Despite a good recovery, the patient claimed that she suffers residual gastrointestinal dysfunction. She further claimed that the NP should have diagnosed appendicitis during her initial visit, which would have allowed for less invasive treatment.

Initially, the plaintiff brought suit against the clinic and several employees, but not the NP. She later moved to add the NP, but that motion was denied due to the statute of limitations. The clinic then impleaded the NP, arguing that it was her negligence in failing to diagnose the appendicitis.

The matter proceeded to trial against the NP and the clinic. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff’s symptoms did not suggest appendicitis at the time of the NP’s examination.

OUTCOME
A defense verdict was returned.

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