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Amputations Provide Insight into Dangers of Delayed Diagnosis of Invasive Infections

February 08, 2013

A recent lawsuit involving a claim of medical malpractice based on multiple amputations provides a cautionary tale for patients when dealing with medical professionals.

Unfortunately, while most physicians and medical professionals are extremely dedicated and want to do the best for their patients, mistakes can happen. Errors and omissions can have devastating consequences.

According to media reports, Robert Downey suffered multiple amputations that his lawsuit alleges was caused by repeated failures of hospital medical personnel to diagnose his methicillin-sensitive staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) infection despite the fact that his son had been treated for the same type of infection only weeks before. Although MSSA is closely related to the often fatal MRSA infection, MSSA is usually treatable with proper early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics.

The warning signs that should have provided notice to the medical professionals treating Downey were numerous according to statements by family members to the press. Downey went to the hospital with a sore that was similar to one his son had been treated for at the hospital weeks before. His son had developed the MSRA infection, but he was successfully treated with a course of antibiotics.

When Downey went to the hospital with a comparable sore a few weeks later, he informed the physician’s assistant (PA) that he was concerned that he might have a similar infection. Despite the fact that the PA remembered the son’s case, those treating Downey did not take a culture or prescribe antibiotics. Downey went back to the hospital twice more to see the PA because the condition did not improve.

On the third visit, Downey informed a different PA that he was experiencing intense pain in his shoulder. Downey had done some basic research online and found information indicating that MRSA could cause arthritis. The PA indicated that the pain was caused by bursitis and that there was no relationship between the sore and the pain in Downey’s shoulder.

Downey and his family allege that the infection was not diagnosed nor was he administered antibiotics until he was rushed to the hospital when he collapsed two days after the third visit to the hospital. Ultimately, he had both feet and hands amputated, and later his left leg below the knee and right leg at the knee were also amputated. Downey was not even able to participate in the decision to amputate his extremities because he was in a coma from the infection. His spouse had to make this difficult decision. The family and victim allege that these devastating life changing consequences could have been avoided had a culture been conducted earlier.

The failure to diagnose and treat infections is a common form of medical malpractice. Many of these infections are contracted in a hospital. A study found that more than 94,000 people develop invasive infections each year, and twenty percent result in death. Most of the infections in the study were MSRA infections, which are virulent drug resistant forms of infection. Approximately 85 percent of these infections were contracted in medical facilities including hospitals and nursing homes. When infections are not diagnosed or treated in a timely manner, this may provide a basis for a medical malpractice claim.

When our Georgia medical malpractice attorneys represent clients who suffer amputations, other serious injuries or death caused by medical mistakes, we work with medical experts who can define the appropriate standard of care and identify deviations from that standard. Our Georgia medical malpractice attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.