As patient, we must trust doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to provide us with the care we need. Unfortunately, however, mistakes can be made along the way, which can cause a catastrophic injury or even death. Over 250,000 people in the United States die each year due to medical error, according to a Johns Hopkins study. Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., just behind cancer and heart disease. When a trusted medical professional’s negligence injures a patient, it can be devastating for those involved.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice can occur whenever a doctor, nurse, hospital, rehabilitation facility, or other health care provider acts below the requisite standard of care. As a result, patients can be severely injured or even killed by such negligence. Negligence by a medical professional can happen through the actions of the professional or through their failure to act. Medical malpractice can often result from diagnostic error or an error in medical treatment, health management, or aftercare treatment. Multiple parties may be legally responsible for malpractice damages.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Many different scenarios can give rise to a claim for medical malpractice exist; however, the most common causes include:
Misdiagnosis: This can occur when a doctor or physician examines the patient, but delivers an incorrect diagnosis of their illness or finds no discernible illness. Misdiagnosis prevents the patient from receiving the right treatment or leaves them receiving a treatment they do not need.
Delayed Diagnosis: Though similar to misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis refers to an initially incorrect diagnosis and a subsequent correct diagnosis. The delay in diagnosis can worsen a patient’s condition due to not receiving the necessary treatment timely.
Surgical Errors: Surgical errors significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. While a patient may sign an informed consent document acknowledging the risks of surgical complications or even death, not all medical negligence claims can be disclaimed. The doctor responsible for the patient can still not cause harm to, fatally injure, or perform an incorrect operation on the patient.
Birth Injury: Birth injuries are often the most devastating types of medical malpractice. In certain cases, birth injuries can result in the death of an infant or its mother. Negligence resulting in a birth injury can occur during prenatal care or during childbirth. Birth injuries often result in the need for lifelong medical care, which can wind up costing patients thousands. Common birth injuries include:
- Brain Injury
- Cerebral Palsy
- Brachial Plexus Injury
- Erb’s Palsy
- Forceps Injury
- Skull Fracture
- Clavicle Fracture
Medical Products Liability: A poorly designed medical device can cause or contribute to medical malpractice. When faulty devices do not work as they should, they can injure patients. In other cases, a patient’s medical condition can worsen due to a defective medical device not providing promised health benefits.
Prescription Medication Errors: Often one of the most common forms of medical malpractice, prescription error occurs when a treating provider administers the wrong medication and/or the incorrect dosage of a medication. Prescription drug errors can also result from failure to recognized drug interactions and premature discontinuation of treatment.