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Michigan State University Doctors Fail to Timely Diagnose Infection – Patient Dies – Jury Awards $9 million

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The Lansing State Journal recently reported that Patrick Cavanaugh was only 39 years old when he died about two weeks after being admitted to Sparrow Hospital. His chief complaints upon admission were shortness of breath, weakness and a fever that lasted ten days.

Cavanaugh was a construction worker and died from a fungal infection, histoplasmosis, to which he had been previously exposed while digging ditches to lay pipe. Three doctors, all professors at Michgian State University’s College of Human Medicine, were named in the lawsuit, including an infectious disease specialist. The actual diagnosis was finally made from a lung biopsy performed two days before Mr. Cavanaugh died, but the results of the biopsy were not known until after he died.

Defense attorney Anita Folino argued that the doctors “did not deviate from the accepted standard of care” and “Even if they had diagnosed [the infection] early on and treated him for it, he would not have survived.” The jury disagreed. As one of the Cavanaugh family’s attorneys explained, “This shouldn’t have happened… With better communication, it could have been prevented.”