Baby Dies: 11 Danish Doctors Make Grave Mistake

I am astounded….and stunned, but regretfully not surprised.

Today’s front cover article on the largest national daily, Berlingske Tidende, reads: “Baby døde efter lægesvigt,” (Baby died after medical failure).

It’s a very sad and most unfortunate story about how, after several (ELEVEN) attempts to get proper treatment, a 14-month old baby died from swallowing a battery in November last year. Why is it just now out in the public, I cannot answer but only speculate.

The story says that, “Christian was just 14 months old when he died. The child’s parents tried vigilantly for two weeks to convince several home doctors or ‘vagtlæger’, and hospital doctors that they feared the boy had swallowed a battery. The suspicion was rejected by the doctors.

The parents contacted a total of 11 doctors, (ELEVEN DOCTORS!!!!!)including lægevagt and the hospital where doctors saw the boy. But doctors rejected the suspicion of a swallowed a battery. One of the doctors actually asked the family to measure a similar battery with a tape measure before he dismissed the suspicion.

After two weeks with fever, cough, pain and difficulty eating Jim Christian Andersen died. The battery created a hole in his esophagus and the main artery. The child’s death would, in all probability, have been avoided if doctors had taken an X-ray, which according to records at a time were considered. But it was never ordered by the doctors. ”Now we must learn to live with the need for an autopsy before the doctors listened to us, ‘ says Jimmi Knudsen, Christians father.”

Another report from TV2 News reads: “Patient­foreningen: Vagtlæger er ligeglade” (Patient Association: Home doctors don’t care). The article highlights that Danes are experiencing secrecy and indifference when they call the doctor on call, said chairman of the Patient Association, Villy Christiansen.

‘First you experience a phone lock (uncoorpative support), and then struggle with the doctor on call,’ he said.

He recognizes that there is a shortage of GPs and emergency doctors, therefore, is very busy, but Villy Christensen believes that entire on-call home doctor system must change, for example, to involve general practictioners more. He says that in many cases it’s not a doctor on call, but a nurse, which can take care of many things. Christiansen also admist that Danes often experience a closed-mindedness and a “I don’t care” attitude when they consult with the home doctors.  

It is sort of ironic because I just had my first experience with the home doctors this past week. I was suffering from extreme stomach pain that had persisted for five days or so. I won’t go into too much detail, but the doctor that payed the visit simply did an exam to make sure I didn’t have appendicitis and told me to drink coke and eat bread and crackers for two days, and if it didn’t get better to consult with my regular doctor. I did get the feeling and still do that it could be more serious than that and coincidentally spent another sleepless night consulting with my mother on the phone who’s in Texas.

I too have have encountered this “shrugging of the shoulders” attitude and spent a significant amount of time trying to get proper treatment after numerous consultations. Due to this, I often find myself not trusting the doctors completely and second guessing their diagnosis and treatments. This is very unfortunate. And in this case, an innocent child lost his life.

Needless to say, this kind of attitude can have fatal consequences. I just hope that this case will help shed light on this issue so that people’s lives can be spared and suffering reduced – and this includes mental suffering wondering if one’s proplems are taken seriously.

My most compassionate, sincere and heart-felt condolences go out to this family. Unfortunatly, it’s a horrible way to learn a very hard lesson, one that I sincerely hope is learned.

Please let this child’s loss of life not be in vain (lacking substance or worth).

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19 comments

  1. 'babs' · · Reply

    It is a tragedy.

    As a family we have had the opposite experience. We now never bother with the local doctors who have been atrocious in pinpointing problems, reacting accordingly or even giving the correct diagnosis or medicine! Quite often their files are incorrect and they don’t have great powers of communication are rude and arrogant!

    If we need to see a doctor at all it is when we are really sick, so by that point we’d need a doctor who isn’t going to mess us about, and we want the technology on hand to be screened and tested there and then.

    This we can’t get from the local doctors.

    So we wait until the doctor is out of hours, and then only use the local out of hours surgery in the hospital and only when we have something acute going on.

    So far we’ve never been refused an xray or a further exam or test if it is indicated, but if we had relied on the local doctors we would never have recieved the medical helps we needed.

    Often all a worried parent needs is to have their mind put at rest, and this can mean that the doctors often have to do xrays and further examinations and use their time on children who turn out to be perfectly healthy. This is all part of the healthcare system we pay into with our hefty and extortionate taxes here.

    It would seem that in the kommune of the poor child who died, someone has sent a memo out saying: “see these parents coming! Cut down on full examinations!”

    My sympathies go out to the parents of the child who died. There are thousands of other children every year being affected by out of tune doctors, and one wonders what we can do to improve their attitudes.

    But my goodness! Has anyone seen how they live? Doctors in Denmark are loaded, living in the lap of luxury and earning enough to make it all worth it. Is this why they are so arrogant?

    Personally, I object to paying high taxes for a healthcare system that is becoming increasingly centralized. And that makes such glaring mistakes. What about that Norwegian young man who died due to a hospital blunder here recently? The one with hemophilia?

    There are certain situations where it is a waste of everybody’s time taking a child into a doctor (like when they have a cold), but when a child has swallowed a battery it is obvious that an x ray is needed.

    Sack every one of those 11 doctors I say! Sack them and stop them from practicing medicine! How else can we show what a very grave mistake has been made?

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    1. I rather hope that it’s the exception rather than the rule. I have had positive experiences and there are competent doctors here…I really believe that a lot of it comes down the rapport you have with your doctor and knowing how to ask for what you need — and how to communicate with your doctor. Since this is most likely different than from what you are used to because of cultural differences, it can be a challenge. Yes, there is private care if you need it and you can go to other countries, Germany or Sweden, for example. You can also go to private drs/hospitals when you have private insurance, which is recommended. Hope this helps.

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  2. Bluefish · · Reply

    This is beyond horrible…how the hell did that happen?! How can they be this incompetent?! I’m speechless.

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    1. I know. It’s pretty unreal. But hopefully this will be a strong enough case to change some attitudes. We can always hope.

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  3. It’s absolutely rotten, I tell you. Couple this with the report today of how filthy hospitals are in Denmark, and the incident earlier this year of the Norwegian hemophiliac dying after being refused treatment by the hospital receptionist, and it’s no wonder people are buying private care at unprecedented levels here!

    Those poor parents. I really hope each of the 11 arrogant doctors are shamed on a daily basis.

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    1. I hadn’t heard about that report, but after seeing the condition of the offices of some of the doctors I’ve been to, it doesn’t surprise me. Seems like everything is covered in dust most of the time. I hope these are more exceptions than the rule though.

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  4. I am not remotely surprised. The family docs here scare me. They never seem to take anything seriously. Whenever something comes up that I feel is serious, I call Copenhagen Doctors. They may be expensive, but they ALWAYS explain their thinking and never leave me worried that the care my family is receiving in second rate.

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    1. Thanks for your post. This is an interest tact that you’ve taken. I hadn’t heard of this service. It’s good to know. The truth is though, that you can get good service just maybe not all the time.

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  5. Melissa · · Reply

    “The article highlights that Danes are experiencing secrecy and indifference when they call the doctor on call.”

    The indifference I feel when seeking medical treatment is the worst. I dread the need to “prove myself” to the doctors so much, that we avoid having to see or call them.

    Just yesterday I called our nurse’s hotline in the US to ask about allergy medications that I can give my son, that are over the counter, and won’t interact with his asthma medication. This was a far better alternative that trying to talk to a Danish doctor, having them tell me that nothing is wrong, and then just stare at me until I leave the office.

    Earlier this year my son broke his collar bone. We took him into the emergency room early one Sunday morning. We were the only ones there, yet the woman at the front desk could barely bother to turn around and see what we were there for.

    What bothers me the most is that this was a child. OK, so as an adult I’ll let you be somewhat indifferent. But for children – it should be different. That’s why we have pediatricians in the US. These are people who specifically WANT to care for children.

    On the converse. We were seeing an allergist for a bit. This was a team of specialists. They were all smart, caring, and when they asked me questions they listened to my answers. They genuinely wanted to figure it all out.

    But how did we get to the allergist in the first place…

    I called the regular doctor to get an epipen refill, and the doctor told me I didn’t need it. After my angry silence she allowed the prescription to be refilled, but she also then made us go and see the allergy specialist (maybe to prove me wrong?).

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    1. Sorry to hear about your son. Good that you had a good experience with the allergist. I did as well. Strange. I think a key is learning how to talk to your doctor — or I should say your Danish doctor — because they are a different breed that’s for sure. But, if you can improve communication, then that would solve a lot, I think.

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  6. Okay, so as a mom of three who is moving to Copenhagen next year, could you help me understand more? Are ALL the doctors like this? Are there private doctors that offer better care? Misha mentioned the Copenhagen Doctors? Here in Morocco we do not always trust the doctors but they sure as heck would do an x-ray if the parents suspected their child had swallowed a battery.

    I cannot believe how STUPID those doctors were! I cannot believe they let that baby die and in such a horrible and painful way! That baby’s life can never be replaced. That’s a mistake that cannot be fixed and those parents will live with it the rest of their lives. It’s horrible. Absolutely horribly heartbreaking.

    Are there other countries people go to for care if they need surgery or something?

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    1. I rather hope that it’s the exception rather than the rule. I have had positive experiences and there are competent doctors here…I really believe that a lot of it comes down the rapport you have with your doctor and knowing how to ask for what you need — and how to communicate with your doctor. Since this is most likely different than from what you are used to because of cultural differences, it can be a challenge. Yes, there is private care if you need it and you can go to other countries, Germany or Sweden, for example. You can also go to private drs/hospitals when you have private insurance, which is recommended. Hope this helps.

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  7. GNjalsson · · Reply

    For what it’s worth, you are definitely not alone. I have experiences of both Norway and Finland. In the spring of 1996 i contracted doubled-sided walking pneumonia in Oslo. When it hit the left side it was a bubble the size of a mandarin and I could at times hardly breathe with each breath feeling like a knife was being stuck between my ribs. When I was finally shuttled to the local outpatient care centre (Legevakten) in Oslo by a co-worker who would see no more of me sitting at work in this condition.

    I sat there for hours and even complained to the receptionist that it was getting more difficult to breathe. She just shrugged me off and told me to wait my turn and perhaps I was hyperventilating!

    I finally met the doctor who suggested that maybe it was bad nerves or perhaps a stretched muscle between the ribs. I believe they took an x-ray but “found nothing”.

    As my fever rose during the following days, I visited a private (Swedish) doctor stationed in Oslo who carefully listened to my ribcage and sent me for an x-ray to a private lab. They discovered the problem and I was immediately sent home with antibiotics and forbidden to work! The private system saved me and public system had at least twice turned out to be completely apathetic and worthless!

    In Finland I have found the situation to be quite an improvement, but it is growing rapidly worse since 2000. I now use and would recommend using the parallel private system. I too ended up calling a Canadian national health hotline for my previous residence area and got a lot more help than calling any of the Finnish hotlines. And I speak each of the languages fluently!

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  8. First of all the situation in denmark is not that bad.

    Any incident, where somebody dies is one incident to many. It is however not a sound basis for evaluation to evaluete an entire system based on singular cases. A better option, albeit not perfect, is to look at statistics and independent observers evaluations.

    A survey showed that 97% of patients were satisfied with the home doctors. it was a limited survey, and may have been biased, but still goes to show not everybody is unhappy with the system. And the danish cancertreatment is not as bad as its reputation (it is actually on international standard)(http://www.dr.dk/Regioner/Fyn/Nyheder/Regionsyddanmark/2008/12/20/094309.htm)

    A reasonably balanced view on the danish health system I think can be found in the dansih doctors association:
    http://www.ugeskriftet.dk/portal/page/portal/LAEGERDK/UGESKRIFT_FOR_LAEGER/TIDLIGERE_NUMRE/2008/UFL_EKCMA_2008_19/UFL_EKCMA_2008_19_54044

    I hope that would calm some who might think that the situation in DK is cause of major concern. Individual cases of errors and people feeling mistreated will always excist (and does so every where) and should be minimized. But I don’t think it would be possible to completely avoid errors as long as humans are doing the treatments. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy%27s_Law)

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    1. Thanks for your post. I have to disagree. This is not an isolated case. I have personally experienced this kind of attitude on more than one occasion, and I also have several other references to people that have had situations where an absolute lack of interest has been shown resulting in prolonged and unnecessary suffering not to mention preventable complications.

      What about the boy that died of Meningitis and was told to take a Panodil? Did you see the research that came out in the U.S. concerning liver damage as a result of over-use of acetaminophen?

      http://www.fda.gov/AdvisoryCommittees/Calendar/ucm143083.htm

      I appreciate your attempt to stand up for the Danish medical system, but I’m afraid it is terribly flawed and needs an overhaul. This also includes the sanitation issues in not only hospitals but also in doctor’s offices and clinics (which from what I understand is terrible and is said that if you have surgery in a Danish hospital you have a 25 percent chance (or one in ten according to this article) of getting an infection http://www.ugeskriftet.dk/portal/page/portal/LAEGERDK/UGESKRIFT_FOR_LAEGER/TIDLIGERE_NUMRE/2007/UFL_EKCMA_2007_48/UFL_EKCMA_2007_48_51056

      The filth I have seen in some doctor’s offices (where non-sterile instruments are just laying around) frankly disgusts me.

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  9. This is an awful story, no question. I live in the states and read about stories of doctor indifference all the time. You have to be an advocate for your health here and often demand tests be done or be referred to a specialist.

    The very fact that Danes are able to call a doctor to your home is a huge thing. We certainly do not have that here in the U.S. We would have to go to the emergency room and pay a small fortune.

    My point is, there are inadequacies in every healthcare system I am afraid it is not exclusive to Denmark.

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  10. Great Blog!……There’s always something here to make me laugh…Keep doing what ya do 🙂

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  11. Due to my frustration in trying to get an appointment with a specialist, I tried to do a search for a private doctor in Copenhagen and came across your blog. This story is just sad. It probably is an exception, but that 11 doctors missed the diagnosis is horrifying.

    I am all for the public medical system, but there seems to be such a lack of responsiveness and care about a patient from healthcare “professionals” in Denmark. It can take weeks to get an appointment with the GP then another few weeks to see a specialist… While the level of care may be good, my experience is that it can take a LONG time before you get to see a doctor. One of my employees had to take an extra month off for stress leave because it took that long just to make an appointment. I’m not sure why Danes put up with this, but I think it’s because they’ve don’t expect anything better.

    I want to trust the Danish medical system, but hear too many stories from my Danish co-workers that mirror much of what is said here. It just scares me. So, I usually just wait until my visits to the U.S.

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    1. Hi there, sorry you’ve had trouble too. My best advice is for you to be assertive if you really need something looked at and keep asking for appointments — even offer to be on call if someone cancels although they don’t usually respond to this. Sometimes you have to really express the severity of your condition very strongly and with a sense of urgency otherwise you will be put through the system just like everyone else and “get to the back of the line,” which in some cases can take a very long time. I personally had to wait six months to see a specialist at one point and then I only had one appointment every 2-3 months, so getting my situation taken care literally took a couple of years. I learned the hard way. The other option is to go private and pay for the private insurance. I know it seems absurd since you’re forking over 50% of your salary for the “benefit” of healthcare, but for these types of things, I think if could be worth it if you have the means. Be careful with consulting with private hospitals, however, they are usually the same doctors that are in the public system (in that they were once public doctors before going private), so their overall attitude towards you as a patient is no different than a public doctor. Good luck!

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