Medical Innuendo

By Jim McVeagh 19/09/2009


Mercifully, there is no blaring “Labtests is evil” news item in the media today, but I note that the Herald can’t resist a dig at Labtests in this article on the tragic story of a woman who died from what appears to be a hypoglycaemic (very low blood sugar) episode.

Mrs Pineki had a home visit laboratory blood test on September 8, ordered by a diabetes nurse, Mrs Hanson-Alp said.

The next day, an ambulance was called when Mrs Pineki began experiencing symptoms of a low blood sugar level. Ambulance staff gave her glucose and her level rose.

But on September 10 the level apparently crashed again. Her husband, Tohomai Pineki, could not rouse her from sleep and at 2.30pm called an ambulance.

She was taken to hospital in a coma and did not recover.

Not wishing to pre-empt the results of the investigation, but, just on the limited story above,  it is likely the ambulance officers did not pay enough attention to the cardinal rule of hypoglycaemia  – always firmly establish the cause. Many diabetics experience low blood sugars because they mis-co-ordinate their dose of insulin and when they next eat food. These people can probably be safely left at home as they all recover well. But if there is any doubt, especially if the patient has some sort of infection, acute or chronic, they should be assessed by an emergency physician. This lady would have fallen in the latter category. It is possible, of course, that the ambulance officers did not know about the cellulitis, with disastrous consequences.

It is absurdly unlikely that this poor lady’s demise was anything to do with the blood test taken the day before. Even if the result had come back as someone else’s prostate result, it would not have made an iota of difference. There is therefore no need for this:

The community pathology service, Labtests, also would not comment on the death until investigations were complete.

Why would they comment on it at all? It cannot possibly have realistically had anything to do with the outcome. It is just another piece of medical innuendo trying to link Labtests with this unfortunate woman’s death.