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A Neurologist Misdiagnoses a Woman with Multiple Sclerosis, Causing Her Significant Emotional and Financial Damages

Our client was in an automobile accident and reported to a neurologist with complaints of migraines. She complained of fatigue, numbness in her head, difficulty focusing, and memory lapses. The neurologist treated her for her complaints and headaches and ordered an MRI of her head. When our client's MRI results came back, the doctor diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory demyelinating condition of the central nervous system that is generally considered to be autoimmune in nature. MS often leads to physical disability and cognitive decline. Moreover, MS is a very progressive disease that can lessen one's life expectancy by 5-7 years. Upon her diagnosis, our client was treated with the steroids interferon and betaseron. She had to receive injections, often self administered, multiple times a week.

Our client experienced extreme anxiety and mental anguish over her diagnosis with MS. She performed research on the disease and learned of the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis. Questions plagued her mind of how a she would be able to care and provide for herself if the disease placed her in a wheelchair. Our client began to experience severe depression; this co-morbid factor of MS is not unusual. It is reported that patients respond to a diagnosis of MS with much the same symptoms of depression as those who are diagnosed with cancer. Out of her fear of being without a caretaker, our client decided to leave her job and the city to move closer to her family. Her life was dramatically transformed because of her diagnosis with MS.

After she moved, our client reported to a different neurologist in her new city for the continued treatment of her MS. The neurologist performed somatosensory evoked potential and visual evoked potential studies. These studies were negative and her MRI was normal. Based on these studies and her previous negative lumbar puncture, the doctor determined that our client never had Multiple Sclerosis. It would appear that our client's original neurologist had received an erroneous fax report from the radiology department and failed to recognize it was for a different patient. If the doctor would have looked more closely, he would have noticed that the report was not for our client. Moreover, the neurologist received a correct, original report in the mail, and the doctor did not take the time to compare the reports. The neurologist later admitted in a deposition that he should have compared the reports, and had he compared the reports he would not have treated our client for MS. When the medical review panel met on this issue, they found that the failure by our client's original neurologist to compare the reports or notice the different patient numbers was a breach in the standard of care. Expert witnesses testified that the diagnosis and treatment of our client for MS caused her traumatic emotional distress, resulting in major life changes. Todd Townsley was able to favorably settle this client's claim for misdiagnosed multiple sclerosis with the neurologist and the Patient's Compensation Fund.

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