Friday, April 24, 2009

Girl, 6, dies after NHS GP failed to carry out blood test which would have saved her life

Once again the chronic delays and indifference that characterize socialized medicine were the real killers

A six-year-old girl died from kidney disease after a GP failed to give her a blood test that would have saved her. Bethany Townsend's death was preventable and her illness treatable, an inquest ruled. Her devastated parents are considering legal action against their GP.

Coroner Dr Nigel Chapman, who recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, said: 'The window of opportunity to save Bethany was huge and that length of time was totally unacceptable. 'Sadly Bethany died because a blood test wasn't done. Had one been done, it would have shown the abnormality and she would have gone into hospital and her death would not have occurred.'

Bethany died three weeks after being taken to her local surgery in Newark, Nottinghamshire, just after Christmas. But instead of carrying out a blood test which would have diagnosed her illness, Dr Julie Barker referred her to Newark Hospital for the test. When Bethany arrived a week later nurses found she was too thin for them to find a vein and referred her back to her doctor's surgery. Ten days later Dr Barker tried to draw a blood sample but could not find a vein.

The GP then managed to refer Bethany to a specialist paediatrician but could get an appointment only a month later. But Bethany died from kidney failure on January 22, 2007, weighing just 30lb.

Dr Barker told Nottingham Coroner's Court she had made 'an error of judgment'. The GP said she now referred children immediately for specialist treatment if required. Dr Barker added: 'Obviously I wish I had referred her straight away. 'I felt that she would need specialist treatment and had planned to do that but I wanted to get some test results back.'

Dr Malcolm Lewis, a specialist in kidney disease at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, said he believed Dr Barker should have put in an urgent request for Bethany to see a specialist paediatrician. Had she done so a blood sample would have been taken within a week and the youngster would have been immediately sent to a specialist renal unit, he said. 'My expectation would be that had she been sent, Bethany would have lived,' he said.

'From the post-mortem reports I would have been optimistic she would have been able to return to good kidney function for a period of time, but given the damage that would have been done she would have needed a transplant in the future. 'From the description of Bethany's Manclinical state I would expect a phone call that day to refer Bethany. I would expect with her condition that she would have been seen within a week and if I were taking that phone call about a child with a urinary infection I would say come up immediately and have a test.'

A statement from Bethany's parents said: 'This has been an incredibly harrowing period for the family and friends of Bethany, with today's inquest reminding us all of a young life lost and a loving daughter who is sadly missed. 'The question of "would things have been different had Bethany seen a specialist?" is one that will haunt us for ever but we are grateful for some kind of closure now that the circumstances surrounding her death have been made public. 'Hopefully lessons have been learned and nobody else suffers in similar circumstances.'

Dr Doug Black, medical director at NHS Nottinghamshire County, said: 'This girl's death is a tragedy. 'It was avoidable and our deepest sympathies go to her family. 'It's a complex case and we have led a thorough review to ensure we learn lessons from it. 'We have acted firmly to put in place a comprehensive action plan under which the GP involved has undertaken further specialist training.'


Health insurance does not mean medical care

Already, many patients "insured" by Medicare and Medicaid have trouble finding a doctor who will take the pittance that the government will pay for their care

Much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, I must report the shocking facts: Medical care is medical care. Nothing more and nothing less. This may not seem like a breakthrough on the frontiers of knowledge. But it completely contradicts what is being said by many of those who are urging "universal health care" because so many Americans lack health insurance. Insurance is not medical care. Indeed, health care is not the same as medical care. Countries with universal health care do not have more or better medical care.

The bottom line is medical care. But the rhetoric and the talking points are about insurance. Many people who could afford health insurance do not choose to have it because they know that medical care will be available at the nearest emergency room, whether they have insurance or not.

This is especially true for young people, who do not anticipate long-term medical problems and who can always get a broken leg or an allergy attack taken care of at an emergency room -- and spend their money on a more upscale lifestyle.

This may not be a wise decision but it is their decision, and there is no reason why other people should lose the right to make decisions for themselves because some people make questionable decisions. If you don't think government bureaucrats can make questionable decisions, then you haven't dealt with many government bureaucrats.

It is one thing to deal with bureaucrats when you are at the Department of Motor Vehicles and in good health. It is something else when you have to deal with bureaucrats when you are lying on a gurney and bleeding or are doubled over in pain on a hospital bed.

People who believe in "universal health care" show remarkably little interest -- usually none -- in finding out what that phrase turns out to mean in practice, in those countries where it already exists, such as Britain, Sweden or Canada. For one thing, "universal health care" in these countries means months of waiting for surgery that American get in a matter of weeks or even days. In these and other countries, it means having only a fraction as many MRIs and other high-tech medical devices available per person as in the United States.

In Sweden [and Britain], it means not only having bureaucrats deciding what medicines the government will and will not pay for, but even preventing you from buying the more expensive medicine for yourself with your own money. That would violate the "equality" that is the magic mantra.

Those who think in terms of talking points, instead of trying to understand realities, make much of the fact that some countries with government-controlled medical care have longer life expectancies than that in the United States. That is where the difference between health care and medical care comes in. Medical care is what doctors can do for you. Health care includes what you do for yourself -- such as diet, exercise and lifestyle. If a doctor arrives on the scene to find you wiped out by a drug overdose or shot through the heart by some of your rougher companions, there may not be much that he can do except sign the death certificate.

Even for things that take longer to do you in -- obesity, alcohol, cholesterol, tobacco -- doctors can tell you what to do or not do, but whether you follow their advice or not is what determines the outcome. Americans tend to be more obese, consume more drugs and have more homicides. None of that is going to change with "universal health care" because it isn't health care. It is medical care.

When it comes to things where medical care itself makes the biggest difference -- cancer survival rates, for example -- Americans do much better than people in most other countries.

No one who compares medical care in this country with medical care in other countries is likely to want to switch. But those who cannot be bothered with the facts may help destroy the best medical care in the world by falling for political rhetoric.


1 comment:

Disillusioned physician said...

US politics have for years been based on fraud and deceit. Government ignores facts routinely. Vouchers improved education in the District of Columbia - report ignored while program killed because it does not fit the accepted schema of public education. The ban on "assault" weapons did nothing to change the homicide rate - ignored in the plans to reinstate the ban because banning guns fits the politicos' agenda. People with cancer in the US do far better than they do in Britain or Canada - ignored in the name of "fairness." The lunatics ARE in charge of the asylum.