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Doctor Ordered To Pay Costs After Meningitis Misdiagnosis

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Nov 25 NZPA - A family whose young son lost a foot and most of his right hand to meningitis after being wrongly diagnosed has won a lengthy legal battle for ACC compensation.

A decision at Auckland District Court yesterday recognised medical error was involved when two-year-old Phoenix Hunt contracted the deadly disease in 2003, The Dominion Post reported today.

When Phoenix became ill in February 2003, his mother, Sandra Munro, immediately suspected meningitis, but Dr William Kim examined him that morning and diagnosed a probably tummy bug.

His mother later found a rash on his stomach, but he was not taken to hospital until 6pm, when tests showed he had meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning).

He was transferred to Auckland Starship hospital and, after his kidneys failed, surgeons had to amputate his right foot and ankle, and the thumb and two fingers on his right hand.

ACC initially accepted his parents' claim for medical misadventure in 2004, after independent advice from paediatrician Vaughan Richardson found Dr Kim had "failed to provide a reasonable standard of care", and earlier treatment would probably have meant amputation was not required.

Dr Kim later challenged that decision, which was quashed by a review tribunal and the family was declined medical cover.

Phoenix's father then lodged an appeal with the district court.

In his decision issued yesterday, Judge Martin Beattie concluded Dr Kim had failed to tell Ms Munro what to do if a rash appeared, which led to a delay in treatment.

He overturned the tribunal's decision and ordered Dr Kim to pay $3000 in costs.

The family could now apply to ACC for backdated payments, and Phoenix could apply for funding for rehabilitation or treatment in future and for lump sum compensation.

Dr Kim said he was disappointed with the decision, which came after the health and disability commission had cleared him of making any error.

"But...it's good in the sense that Phoenix will get the help he needs."

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