A 10-year-old girl was brought to a physician’s office with a complaint of a headache after gymnastics practice in mid-August. The clinic was a freestanding minor emergency center and not the child’s regular physician’s office. The girl and the adult who had brought the child to the clinic–the girl’s aunt–both denied that the child had been in any type of accident and stated that her only complaint was the headache and being tired and hot. The adult mentioned that she also seemed a bit disoriented during the drive to the clinic. She didn’t recall having been at gymnastics practice less than an hour earlier. The child told the physician that she had been a gymnast for 6 years and that she really liked her coach.
The outside temperatures had reached 101° F that day. The physician examined the patient and suggested that she be taken home to rest and rehydrate. No prescriptions were written, and the girl left the clinic.
Two hours later, the girl could not be roused from sleeping and was immediately taken to the emergency room at the closest hospital by her aunt. The girl’s mother met them at the hospital just in time to be told that the girl had slipped into a coma.
The physician suspected that she had experienced heat stroke. The aunt was shocked and mentioned that she had taken the girl to a clinic earlier, questioning why this diagnosis was not considered at that time. The mother of the child immediately called the clinic and berated the physician for putting her child into a coma.
What went wrong in this case?
Who is responsible for the child’s condition?
Is this a “good” malpractice case?
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