Geoff was home from college when he became very ill. The illness seemed different from anything he had ever experienced, so he asked his mother to take him to the emergency room. The ER staff told Geoff he probably had the flu, but took a blood sample for laboratory analysis and sent him home. A couple of hours later, Geoff felt worse, so he and his mother returned to the ER. Again they asked for Geoff to be admitted. The hospital staff declined a second time and repeated their opinions that “it was just the flu.” Geoff and his mother returned home.
Hours later, Geoff’s condition became severe. At his insistence, he and his mother returned to the ER for the third time that evening. They assured the hospital staff that Geoff had insurance coverage and begged the hospital to allow his admission. The ER staff finally decided to admit Geoff, but by that time the undiagnosed meningitis had poisoned Geoff’s blood so thoroughly that his legs eventually would have to be amputated. After he was admitted, Geoff lapsed into a coma and will remain in a semicomatose state for the rest of his life.
Seeking answers with the help of their lawyers, Geoff’s family discovered that the blood sample had been read by a computer before Geoff’s condition became severe. The test results for two critical values were so abnormal that a “panic” code had been written on the laboratory report warning the hospital staff that their patient had a very serious illness. The lab report had been ignored when Geoff and his mother had returned to the ER the second time that evening. Medical experts retained by Geoff’s lawyers testified that had he been provided treatment when he first sought it, he would be living a normal and productive life. They further testified that had the hospital simply chosen to pay attention to its laboratory reports, this tragedy would have been avoided. Shortly before the jury trial was set to begin, the hospital decided to settle the legal claims asserted by Geoff’s family, who now have additional financial assistance to help them care for Geoff in their home 24 hours a day.