Last March, as the coronavirus was tearing across Spain, Lídia Bayona Gómez started to suffer bouts of vomiting and coughing.
A nursing home worker, she treated herself as a potential Covid-19 case, isolating and getting tested. The results came back negative, twice. With her weight dropping and her urine turning red, she made repeated attempts to see a doctor and in late April, on a phone consultation, one told her to stay home and prescribed medicine for gastroenteritis and a urinary tract infection.
But the pain kept getting worse and in late June, her sister took her to an emergency hospital unit. In mid-July, she underwent a 12-hour surgery to remove two cancerous tumors. She died nine days later, at age 53.
It was not an isolated tragedy.
Hospitals and other health care centers have been forced to devote most of their resources to Covid-19 patients, and doctors are warning that a growing number of cases of cancer and other serious illnesses are going undetected. That toll is beginning to be reflected in lawsuits.
The details of Ms. Bayona Gómez’s care are part of a lawsuit brought by her sister, Fátima Bayona, who wants Spain’s public prosecutors to charge the local health authorities in the northern city of Burgos with gross negligence.
Carmen Flores, the president of an association that helps patients or their relatives take legal action, said that her group had helped file more than 50 lawsuits since September, when Spain and other countries were hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Unlike in some other countries, Spain’s government does not report how many medical lawsuits are filed each year. But Ms. Flores said that, judging by her monitoring of courtroom filings across the country, the number appears to have risen so far this year by at least 30 percent.
Some lawsuits accuse doctors of refusing to see patients in person; others assert that doctors rushed to the wrong conclusions or did not want to touch patients because of the risk of Covid-19.
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