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The serious consequences of diabetes misdiagnosis and clinical mismanagement


Shine Lawyers |

Written by:
Daniel Opare
Associate

This Men’s Health Week, we are shining light on a disease that affects an alarmingly high number of men - diabetes.

Many people experiencing symptoms of illness, especially men, feel they should ‘suck it up’ rather than present to a doctor. This can cause serious medical conditions to go undiagnosed, which is highly concerning particularly in the context of conditions like diabetes. When misdiagnosed, undiagnosed or managed inappropriately, diabetes can have life-threatening consequences.

In light of Men’s Health Week, here’s what you need to know about the disease that impacts over 1 million adults in Australia – the majority being men.

What is diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 – when the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
  • Type 2 – when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or it doesn’t respond properly to insulin.

Unfortunately there is not yet a cure for diabetes, so it requires lifelong management. In the case of type 1 diabetes, this usually means keeping blood glucose levels safe, through multiple daily insulin injections or a continuous infusion of insulin through an insulin pump. For type 2 diabetes, blood glucose levels are generally managed through a combination of medication, diet and exercise.

What complications can arise from diabetes?

When undiagnosed or mismanaged, diabetes can cause serious health complications including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Eye disease
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Kidney disease
  • Amputations
  • Premature death.

When a person’s diabetes is managed well, these complications can usually be avoided. Regrettably, as medical negligence lawyers, we frequently see what happens when medical professionals manage diabetes poorly, sometimes with fatal consequences.

Diabetes misdiagnosis — our client’s story

We are currently representing a client whose husband passed away from diabetic ketoacidosis, despite attempting to receive appropriate medical treatment.

Our client’s husband did not know he had diabetes, but developed several symptoms over the course of a few weeks, including frequent urination, excessive thirst, blurred vision and vomiting.

His wife took him to his local GP, who unfortunately failed to recognise that ketoacidosis was occurring – which is a medical emergency and requires urgent treatment in hospital. The GP instead prescribed some anti-nausea and blood pressure medication, referred the husband for non-urgent blood tests and wrote in his medical record that anxiety may be contributing to his symptoms. Tragically, our client’s husband passed away that evening.

This case, and others like it, highlight the need for medical practitioners to properly consider and act on patients’ symptoms, especially when diabetes could be the cause.

Type 2 diabetes: who is at risk?

Middle-aged and older Australians are especially at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although the condition is becoming increasingly common in children and younger adults.

If you experience these symptoms of diabetes, it’s vital you seek medical advice without hesitation and seek a second opinion if you are still concerned:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that do not heal.

Medical negligence and diabetes: how Shine can help

Unfortunately, sometimes even when medical advice is sought, medical practitioners and hospitals fail to provide appropriate care to patients with diabetes. When this happens, the patient may suffer serious, even fatal, consequences.

If you believe that you have suffered an injury or lost a loved one as a result of medical negligence in the treatment of diabetes, we encourage you to contact us for a free and no-obligation consultation with our Medical Law experts.

Written by Daniel Opare. Last modified: June 15, 2021.

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