Failure to Diagnose B-12 Deficiency
The Gutman Case
Vitamin B-12 is an essential vitamin needed to sustain life. If a person becomes B-12 deficient, they begin to have problems in their extremities, losing strength, the ability to lift and the ability to walk. If a B-12 deficiency progresses or goes untreated, it can lead to complete immobility and ultimately death.
In early 2001, Mrs. Gutman went to see her primary care physician complaining of back pain and general weakness. He performed some tests, and not knowing what the problem was, sent her to a specialist, a neurologist, Dr. Sullivan.
Dr. Sullivan met with Mrs. Gutman and ran a battery of tests, including a simple CBC (a complete blood count). This routine blood test shows certain things such as the size of the red blood cells in the blood, among other things. The CBC showed that the red blood cells were abnormal, which, any first-year resident medical student knows, requires a follow-up test for B-12 deficiency.
However, Dr. Sullivan, rather than following up on a B-12 test, decided to search for other issues, including Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme’s Disease, lead poisoning and such. He ran MRI’s, CT scan, x-rays and referred her to a specialist for a Multiple Sclerosis work-up.
For over a year and half, her condition continued to worsen, and Dr. Sullivan did nothing to diagnose the B-12 deficiency.
Finally, after Mrs. Gutman was unable to walk, she was taken to another hospital where she was admitted, and the next day, on rounds, a first-year medical student noticed the B-12 deficiency and she began receiving B-12 injections.
However, since the B-12 deficiency had gone so long untreated, she is permanently disabled because her muscles are too weak and she cannot walk without assistance, which condition has plateaued, but will be permanent for the rest of her life.
Suit was filed in Mercy County, Pennsylvania, alleging delay in diagnosis by her physicians. A seven-figure settlement was reached with the neurologist in favor of the Plaintiff and her husband.