Common Causes of Medical Negligence
Medical technology today is advanced, and it is explicitly designed to reduce the number of errors in the industry. Unfortunately, medical errors still happen despite technological advancements. In fact, medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, indicating that the problem is widespread and in need of control.
Medical malpractice is a form of negligence conducted by a healthcare professional. While physicians are the most commonly named defendants, other healthcare professionals can cause these injuries, including surgeons, nurses, assistants, pharmacy staff, radiologists, pharmaceutical companies and hospital administrators.
What is Medical Malpractice vs Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence is defined as the negligent, improper, or unskilled treatment of a patient by a health care professional. Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed by a doctor (or other medical professional) who fails to competently perform his or her medical duties. Medical negligence forms the basis for most medical malpractice claims where the victim is claiming injury from medical treatment.
Six Common Medical Negligence Situations
- Birth/OB-GYN Errors
When you go to see your obstetrician or gynecologist, you put your trust in their ability to take care of you and your baby. However, if something goes wrong during labor or delivery, the result can be a serious birth injury or wrongful death. Obstetricians and gynecologists are trained to recognize fetal distress and respond appropriately and quickly. A failure to respond appropriately can result in any number of birth injuries, including blindness, speech problems, developmental delays, or cerebral palsy. These errors can also result in harm or death to the mother. Some mistakes by an OB-GYN have an immediate impact, while others develop over time or become visible over time.
Errors can include misinterpretation of an ultrasound, errors in managing the pregnancy, errors in managing a complication of the pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, failing to administer appropriate genetic tests, failing to perform a C-section, performing an unnecessary C-section, delaying to treat fetal distress, medication errors, errors in a vaginal delivery, or an OB-GYN pulling too hard during a vaginal delivery, which results in Erb’s Palsy.
- Surgical Errors
All surgeries involve risk. Surgical errors can happen even when the surgeon performing the procedure is experienced and knowledgeable. Before surgery, patients typically sign an informed consent indicating they are aware of the risks associated with surgeries.
Not all surgical errors constitute medical malpractice. Instead, for a surgical error to be considered malpractice, the surgeon performing the surgical procedure must fail to follow the appropriate standard of care, and the failure must be the actual and proximate cause of the harm.
Common mistakes made during surgery that may be considered medical negligence include situations such as leaving a foreign object in a patient after operation or the surgeon operating on the wrong body part.
- Pharmacy and Medication Administration Errors
Medication errors can occur throughout the medication-use system. Such as, when prescribing a drug, upon entering information into a computer system, when the drug is being prepared or dispensed, or when the drug is given to or taken by a patient. If you are given the wrong drug, the incorrect dosage information, or a dangerous combination of drugs, and have suffered a serious injury due to the medication, negligence is often to blame. Prescription errors made by medical professionals who may be rushed or who are not carefully considering the patient may be cause for a malpractice lawsuit.
- Emergency Room Errors
Emergency Rooms are busy and stressful; a place where even good medical professionals make mistakes. Hospitals are often understaffed, some use doctors who are contractors and not employees of the hospital. A common error made by emergency room personnel is to discharge a patient that has been treated rather than admit them for additional testing or treatment. Sometimes, this occurs due to misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis. The consequences can be devastating.
- Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesia is essential to prevent patients from feeling pain during medical procedures, but administering anesthesia is not without risk. Anesthesia errors happen every day, sometimes with fatal consequences. If a mistake happens, it is important to determine if the medical care provider can be held accountable for the anesthesia error.
If the medical care that was provided by the anesthesiologist fell below an acceptable professional level of care that was expected based on the doctor’s background and experience, the anesthesiologist and the hospital which employs him could potentially be liable for the devastating consequences of the mistake.
- Failure to Diagnose or Misdiagnosis
Probably one of the scariest situations to be in is to find out there has been a misdiagnosis, or a health issue was not diagnosed, and subsequent inadequate/ineffective treatment for your condition. Unfortunately, a misdiagnosis can also lead to complications and even an untimely death.
Medical malpractice lawsuits often involve a doctor’s misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a patient’s medical condition. A missed diagnosis or failed diagnosis can be the result of a variety of actions by the doctor, such as: not spending enough time with the patient to develop a full medical history or failing to pay enough attention to the patient’s complaints or symptoms, or improperly reading a test or lab result.
Basic Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim
To prove that medical malpractice occurred, you must be able to show all of these things:
- A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed
First, you’ll need to show the existence of a doctor-patient relationship, which (in the eyes of the law) gives rise to the doctor’s duty to provide you with competent care based on the circumstances. In general, this is not a difficult element to prove in a malpractice case. If the doctor agreed to provide some type of diagnosis or treatment to you — or if the care was actually provided absent any specific agreement — then the doctor-patient relationship existed. This element of a medical malpractice case usually goes unchallenged.
- The Doctor Was Negligent
Medical malpractice requirements state that a medical professional must have acted in negligence, which is classified as anything below the standard of care that is required of them. The care provided to you by your physician is not required to be the very best possible care but only needs to be considered “reasonably skillful and careful.”
- The Doctor’s Negligence Caused the Injury
Because many malpractice cases involve patients that were already sick or injured, there is often a question of whether what the doctor did, negligent or not, actually caused the harm. For example, if a patient dies after treatment for lung cancer, and the doctor did do something negligent, it could be hard to prove that the doctor’s negligence caused the death rather than the cancer. The patient must show that it is “more likely than not” that the doctor’s incompetence directly caused the injury. Usually, the patient must have a medical expert testify that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury.
- The Injury Led to Specific Damages
Even if it is clear that the doctor performed below the expected standards in his or her field, the patient can’t sue for malpractice if the patient didn’t suffer any harm. Here are examples of the types of harm patients can sue for:
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish
- Additional medical bills, and
- Lost work and lost earning capacity.
Medical malpractice suits can be difficult to navigate due to the emotional nature of the unfortunate outcomes of these types of cases. It’s important to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can help you and your loved ones decide what may be the best course of action to potentially recover damages due to medical negligence.
If you believe that you were seriously injured as the result of a medical provider’s negligence, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer today.
At DuQue Law, our dynamic team has years of experience representing patients that have been harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients and their families who have suffered from preventable medical errors. Call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your legal options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.