When we think of a diagnostic error, we often think of the negative effects that the error can have on the health of the patient, such as the delay of treatment or inappropriate treatment. However, one couple experienced a uniquely painful fallout following the misdiagnosis of their newborn son.
Lorina and Jason Troy, a couple residing outside of Austin, welcomed a son in 2015. After bringing their baby boy home from the hospital, they soon noticed something that worried them: the boy’s head seemed to be growing larger. They sought medical attention and were horrified at the outcome. Doctors treating their son claimed that Mr. and Mrs. Troy had shaken their son so hard that it caused his head to swell. The medical staff contacted Texas Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS not only removed the infant from their case, but they also removed the Troys’ other son from their custody. Both of their children were placed in foster care.
During the time that the children were in foster care, Mrs. Troy claimed that her elder son suffered negative physical and psychological effects, which included losing 20 pounds and demonstrating signs of depression. In addition to the loss of custody, Mr. Troy was charged with criminal child abuse. The fallout resulted in the loss of his job, and the couple was forced to sell their home in order to afford legal representation.
The Troys sought to investigate what could actually have been the cause of their son’s symptoms. They consulted with a medical expert in Maryland, who diagnosed their younger son with benign external hydrocephalus, a commonly occurring condition in infancy and childhood which results in a rapidly increasing head circumference. As a result, their children were returned to their care and the criminal charges were dropped.
The Troys are unable to sue the doctors who misdiagnosed their son with medical malpractice. The ordeal endured by the family involved many lengthy bureaucratic processes, and the statute of limitations for bringing a medical malpractice claim had expired during that time. However, they have made the decision to go public with their story as a way to effect policy change. They have given interviews with the press and have been in contact with the White House, the governor of Texas, and other legislators. They are advocating for laws that will prevent children from being wrongfully removed from the custody of their parents and prevent doctors from misdiagnosing injuries in babies and young children.