Locked-in Syndrome: The impact of handoff failures

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

There’s a significant role that doctors and others in health care need to fill. They need to give their patients the best treatment from when they arrive until they leave. The duty involves more than identifying and treating health problems. For doctors, it also includes the proper transfer of patient details during ‘handoffs.’ This is a process where one doctor passes responsibility to another.

Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong during these handoffs. When that happens, it could cause more harm than good to the patient.

Negligent diagnosis

Medical malpractice can happen during these ‘handoffs.’ If there’s a lack of proper or timely communication about the patient’s condition, severe problems can arise. This process even has the potential to breed dishonesty in the record-keeping process. Such deception could count as fraudulent documentation. Instances like this can cause serious consequences such as:

  • Incorrect treatment
  • Slow care
  • Worsening of the patient’s condition

Doctors could get into legal trouble for fraudulent documentation. Part of their job is to uphold high professional and ethical standards. This means manipulating medical records undermines this duty and could seriously harm the patient.

The importance of integrity

One example of fraudulent documentation involves Georgia resident Jonathan Buckelew. After experiencing a stroke during a chiropractic adjustment, he urgently went to the hospital. There, the health care providers made many mistakes. The attending doctor did not communicate crucial information about Buckelew’s condition to the rest of the team. The doctor even altered medical records to pretend he had.

Additionally, a radiologist missed Buckelew’s early stroke signs during a brain scan. These mistakes caused his near-total paralysis, known as locked-in syndrome. The court held the doctor 60% and the radiologist 40% liable, granting Buckelew $75 million in damages.

The proper course of action

Buckelew’s severe brain damage and locked-in syndrome weren’t his fault. The doctor and radiologist’s improper actions were to blame. The victim’s case shows that if someone suffers an injury because of a medical mistake, recourse is possible. As such, people in similar circumstances could seek help by making a medical malpractice claim. This is especially true in cases as catastrophic as this one.