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Doctor Downplays Patient’s Symptoms

Patients often defer to their doctor when reporting medical concerns. Even if the signs and symptoms of a problem feel concerning, the doctor may tell the patient they have nothing to worry about. Telling the patient not to worry can relieve some of the stress but it may also prevent the patient from getting treatment when the symptoms indicate a real problem. 

Medical Malpractice After Doctor Downplays Patient’s Symptoms

When a 56-year-old patient went to the emergency room, he complained of abdominal pain on a scale of “10 out of 10.” 10 out of 10 is the maximum on the pain scale and a 56-year-old patient has a pretty good idea of their pain threshold. When a patient complains of the maximum level of pain, a doctor should take that complaint seriously. 

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) prescribed pain medication and indicated an obstruction in the small intestine. The NP did not find the lab test results alarming. The attending physician reviewed the case and found no tenderness in the intestines, and instead told the patient to follow up with his surgeon who performed a gallbladder removal the week before. The patient was discharged. 

A couple days later, the patient’s wife called the surgeon to say her husband was doing worse and the surgeon recommended a change in medication. The next day, the patient arrived at the hospital and died an hour later. A review found the patient died of peritonitis. The doctor was found to have committed malpractice for overlooking the signs of a more serious problem and the patient should not have been discharged.

Peritonitis Signs and Symptoms

Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, which is a membrane that surrounds the abdominal walls and organs in the abdomen. Peritonitis can cause a serious infection, that leads to sepsis, shock, and death. Peritonitis is a medical emergency that may require antibiotics and surgery to save the patient. 

Peritonitis can be caused by complications of liver disease. However, secondary peritonitis is often caused by a perforation in the abdomen. For example, if the doctor punctures the abdomen during surgery and fails to address the puncture, it can lead to infection after surgery. The infection can spread inside the body, causing severe pain. Signs and symptoms of peritonitis include: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Low urine output
  • Thirst
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion

A recent abdominal surgery could increase the risk of peritonitis. Diagnosis of peritonitis can be done using physical examination, taking the patient’s history, blood tests, imaging tests, and peritoneal fluid analysis. Treatment generally consists of antibiotics to fight the infection and surgery to treat the underlying cause of the infection. 

Bowel Perforation Injury

If you or a loved one were a victim of medical malpractice that resulted in bowel perforation, contact Gilman & Bedigian today. Our medical malpractice firm is dedicated to protecting your family and recovering the compensation you deserve. We understand that medical malpractice cases are about more than just a physical injury. We will help you recover the compensation you deserve.


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