Nancy Mules consulted her GP about neck pain on four occasions between 12-25 September 2008.
She was referred to the Cairns Private hospital after the last of those consultations. The following day she was diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis, a disease which left her blind, deaf and with other severe disabilities.
The GP had been proceeding along the basis that her symptoms (of neck pain) were consistent with a neck condition she had experienced in the past, cervical spondylosis.
Ms Mules claimed that the GP had been negligent in failing to undertake a proper examination or make proper enquiries as to Ms Mules’s reported symptoms (which also consisted of headaches and facial flushes).
She argued that had that occurred she would have been given proper tests which would have revealed the condition sooner and allowed adequate treatment before being left with her debilitating injuries.
It was recognised that a delay in the diagnosis of this condition can have debilitating effects – so much so that the condition is emphasised in clinical teaching for GP’s as is the need to exclude it by specialist referral when diagnosing and treating patients suffering from possible symptoms.
The court found that the GP ought to have referred Ms Mules for specialist assessment or to her local hospital for further specialist assessment: and had she done so Ms Mules would not have developed the effects of the condition she subsequently did.
Ms Mules was awarded $6.7 million in compensation.
The GP’s attempts to overturn the decision on appeal in the High Court was unsuccessful.
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For more details read the full version of the court judgment: