People entrust doctors with their lives every day.
And when they do, physicians and other healthcare professionals have a sworn duty to provide patients with safe, ethical and accurate medical treatment. But things don’t always go as they should. It is estimated that nearly a quarter million Americans fall victim to medical malpractice each year.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a legal term used to describe a situation where a healthcare provider fails to provide appropriate care to a patient, resulting in harm or injury. This can include misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, surgical errors, medication errors, or failure to provide appropriate treatment. In essence, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider deviates from the standard of care that would be provided by a reasonably competent healthcare provider in similar circumstances.
When a patient’s injuries result from a violation or deviation of the standard of care, it is considered medical malpractice. Those who suffer harm from medical malpractice may be able to hold the medical care provider(s) liable for their injury under the special rules that apply to this type of professional negligence.
How Does Medical Malpractice Happen?
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Medical negligence during pregnancy and delivery can have many adverse effects on both the mother and baby. Brain and nerve damage, cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries and shoulder dystocia are all birth injuries that can severely affect a child’s quality of life and lead to costly medical expenses. Mothers can be stricken with severe injuries like excessive and unexplained vaginal bleeding, gestational diabetes, hemorrhaging during pregnancy or labor, and surgical complications while undergoing a Caesarian section.
Common examples include doctors prescribing the wrong medication or dosage, failing to note a serious drug allergy or a nurse administering a medication improperly. Even a pharmacist filling a prescription with the wrong medication can be considered a breach of duty.
Mistakes by surgeons during surgery are not unusual and lead to a significant number of medical malpractice lawsuits each year. Many cases involve issues like wrong-site surgeries, unsanitary tools and instruments, perforating bowels, failure to identify infections promptly, puncturing an organ, and leaving clamps, gauze or other instruments inside the patient.
These include errors involving drug administration, airway management, machine operation, ventilation, fluid and electrolyte management, apparatus use and monitoring devices. But anesthesia-related negligence can also relate to patient care during the surgery. It is the anesthesiologist who is often responsible for having the patient periodically moved during surgery to avoid putting too much pressure on specific parts of the body. Failure to do so properly can lead to severe consequences including blindness.
Emergency Room Errors
A misread CT scan, X-ray or MRI that leads to the failure to properly diagnose a serious medical condition can be grounds for medical malpractice. Also, radiation overdoses although not common, sometimes happen from inadequate shielding or an improperly calibrated machine. Excess radiation can lead to organ and tissue damage, brain damage and cancer.
Determining damages, or the monetary value of a case, is tied to the level of injury to the victim. Factors to consider include things like pain and suffering, past and future medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress and wrongful death. In order to recover compensation for medical malpractice, it must be proven that the harm caused by the practitioner’s negligence actually caused the damage.