Chapter 20 : Cases Not Taken

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The microbiologist expert may be consulted by an attorney for his opinion as to whether there are medical grounds for litigation. If, after careful review of the medical records, the expert can opine that grounds for litigation do not exist, most attorneys are grateful and the potential plaintiff is saved considerable expense. The expert must be certain that his opinion is based on facts within his area of expertise. This chapter talks about such cases, in which one was about the death of a three year old boy. The author after reviewing attorney’s letter, the hospital records, and the autopsy report, opined a three year old that with onset of fever, vomiting, and diarrhea is not unusual, especially if a “stomach virus” is present in the community. Several pediatricians confirmed that the nurse’s phone advice of Tylenol (to lower the fever) and fluids to offset the dehydration associated with vomiting and diarrhea was certainly appropriate. The addition of Pedialyte to maintain electrolyte balance was also correct. On Thomas’s initial hospitalization the only finding was dehydration. It was not until Thomas’s readmission that the head jerking and other signs suggesting encephalitis became apparent. One of the most important concerns in evaluating a patient suspected of having encephalitis is to rule out the type that is treatable. The author concludes that even if a diagnosis of viral encephalitis had been made earlier, lack of availability of specific treatment nullifies any legal action that could be made out of the boy's death.

Citation: Ellner P. 2006. Cases Not Taken, p 125-130. In The Biomedical Scientist as Expert Witness. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816520.ch20
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