Protecting cancer patients from infections

Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy are nevertheless prone to other medical conditions as well. Patients also often fight a systemic infection known as neutropenic sepsis.

Especially among cancer patients, the condition comes about due to a low white blood cell count necessary to fight off infection. These cells are often eliminated during chemotherapy sessions used by hospitals to fight off the original cancer.

According to one doctor, this condition is common, simple to diagnose, and can be easily treated with standard protocol. However, the condition must be treated in an aggressive and timely manner. It is also a condition that requires constant monitoring and the providing of antibiotics and various fluids when necessary.

This same doctor had a mother that suffered from this condition. He was shocked to come to his mother’s bedside while she was suffering from this medical condition to find that few vital signs had been taken during this critical period, and that her blood pressure was dangerously low.

It appears that his mother then died because the standard care for his mother was never given. Rather than the hospital not recognizing that a condition existed, what was peculiar about these circumstances was that the hospital did not appreciate the severity of the woman’s condition.

A failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis can be more than simply understanding a patient’s condition. It can also involve understanding what kind of treatment can alleviate that patient’s condition. When standard care was not administered for a patient that later dies, attorneys will question hospital staff as to why such treatment was not given if such a matter is litigated in court.

Source: The Washington Post, “Doctor believes standard hospital care could have averted the death of his mother,” by Jonathan Welch, Dec. 31, 2012