Something Rotten in Denmark

This news release truly recently caught my eye and made me feel sick: a young Norwegian man with hemophilia died 24 hours after reporting to a hospital for a head injury. The medical staff released him due to a language barrier and misunderstanding of the word “hemophilia.” I know this must make the Danish Hemophilia Society outraged and saddened, as it’s a great organization and has educated the public about hemophilia. How could this have happened, in Europe?

From the Copenhagen Post:

“Health staff trying to understand a bleeding Norwegian patient, who said he was a haemophiliac, thought he said he was homosexual and sent him home without necessary treatment. A Norwegian student who was smashed in the head with a glass at a Copenhagen bar on Sunday night, died after medical staff at Rigshospitalet sent him home following language barrier miscommunication.

“Henning Schou Kofed from Copenhagen Police said they had received information that when the 25 year old presented himself at the hospital on Monday with his injury explaining he was a haemophiliac, hospital staff mistook him for saying he was a homosexual and sent him home.

“The Danish word for haemophilia is ‘haemofili’ while the word ‘homofil’ means homophile or homosexual. Ekstra Bladet newspaper reports that the young man was found dead less than 24 hours later at his accommodation in Sydhavn of a brain haemorrhage. Kofed told the paper that they can’t be certain that there is a connection between the man’s injury and the cause of death, but said they are looking for the assailant in connection with the attack. The police have not contacted Rigshospitalet yet, but are deciding if the health inspector should be involved in the case.”

My heart grieves for the mother of this young man who died with factor only a phone call away. So many questions: did he try to tell them he needed “factor,” a word that is universal in hemophilia? Did he insist on an injection? Did he have his own supply? Did he carry a medical ID card or bracelet? What could have been done to prevent this senseless death?

We can only hope that his death will trigger an examination of how emergency room staff are educated about hemophilia, about the need for translators in hospitals, about our young men with hemophilia needing to say “factor” not hemophilia (this is not the first time I have heard of this confusion; I also heard this complaint in the Philippines and in Zimbabwe, where hemophilia sounds like pedophilia and the public thinks a person with hemophilia is one who molests children!); the need to carry medical identification at all times.

Above all, never leave the hospital without an injection following a head injury. The young man did the right thing–he checked into a hospital for treatment. That particular Danish hospital failed this young man, and now he is dead.

The police have since released photos of the suspect and are looking for him, presumably to charge him with manslaughter, maybe murder.

Our condolences to the family of this young man, who is so much like our own sons.

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