Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis may have contributed to the recent death of a young, apparently healthy Ottawa woman, according to her family. The National Post spoke to Roxsana Mueller about the events surrounding the death of her daughter, Lily, in June. Though the facts of this case have not been proven and no lawsuit has been filed, the circumstances will be familiar to medical malpractice lawyers who represent individuals affected by misdiagnoses.

In the early morning of the day prior to her death, 23-year-old Lily Mueller visited the emergency department at Ottawa’s Queensway Carleton Hospital with a stiff neck and a fever of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Doctors were unable to deliver a diagnosis but suggested she might have Strep throat or mononucleosis. They wrote her a prescription for penicillin and sent her home.

Lily’s condition deteriorated through the day. Her temperature hovered between 102 and 103 degrees, and the pain in her neck became more severe. Her mother tried to administer the penicillin, but Lily wasn’t able to keep anything down, the Post reports.

By 5 p.m, the family brought Lily back to the Queensway Carleton emergency room. According to the Post, “Lily’s skin was white, her lips were turning blue and she was complaining about pain when she tried to breathe.” She was admitted, given antibiotics, and eventually intubated to facilitate breathing. At the time, doctors remained unsure of the cause of her illness.

Lily passed away at 3 a.m the next day, less than 24 hours after her first visit to the emergency room. Days later, the cause of death was confirmed as meningitis, of which fever and stiff neck are both symptoms. Now, her family is asking why she was discharged in the first place – a question surely on the minds of medical malpractice lawyers familiar with the case.

“I want to know why they let her go,” Roxsana Mueller told the Post. “Why did they let her walk out the door with penicillin when they didn’t know what it was?”

In order to file a successful medical malpractice claim in Canada, the plaintiff must prove that they were owed a duty of care by the defendant, that the defendant breached that duty of care, that the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and that the injuries were reasonably foreseeable. This is a high standard to meet for any plaintiff, and the circumstances surrounding Lily’s death may not be enough to warrant a successful claim. However, by speaking to the media about her death, Lily’s family is ensuring that the public understands the significant risks associated with misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis.

If you or a member of your family has suffered an injury as a result of the negligence or error of a medical professional, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn how our experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers can help.


Image: Streptococcus pneumoniae, a causative bacteria of meningitis. Credit: Manu5/Wikimedia Commons

Greg Neinstein