The Harm a Negligent Medical Staff Can Cause
One morning in 1997, SNL comedian Dana Carvey was out jogging when he experienced a strange burning sensation in his chest. After running a few tests, his doctor informed him that he had a blocked artery and recommended a routine angioplasty to reopen it.
The operation went smoothly, but scar tissue kept forming around the artery and blocking it again, so his doctor recommended bypass surgery to redirect blood away from the clogged artery to other healthy blood vessels. Carvey decided to have the operation with another doctor near San Francisco, to be closer to his family.
Once again, the surgery went by smoothly, and he began to recover at home until he decided to go on a hike near Lake Tahoe one day. A few minutes into the hike, Carvey started feeling the same chest pains he had experienced before, so he consulted with his original doctor, who took X-ray images of his blood vessels that revealed that the surgeon in San Francisco had bypassed the incorrect artery.
After undergoing an emergency angioplasty to reopen the wrongly bypassed artery and spending several months unable to work, Carvey sued the bypass surgeon — who insisted he hadn’t made any mistakes — for $7.5 million. Eventually, the malpractice lawsuit was settled, and Carvey donated most of the money to charity.
Medical malpractice is an unfortunate, yet fairly common occurrence in the United States. According to a Hopkins University study, more than 250,000 people die every year due to medical errors, making it the third leading cause of preventable death, right after cancer and heart disease. However, many people are not aware of what medical malpractice looks like and the devastating harm it can cause for those involved.
For Starters, What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital or healthcare worker causes injury or the death of a patient by omission or due to a negligent act. When this happens, the organization or medical professional is legally responsible for their actions and could potentially be sued in a court of law.
Lawsuits related to medical malpractice fall under tort reform and are usually handled by a personal injury attorney. The rules and regulations for these types of situations vary by state, but, in general terms, at least one of the following three factors must be involved to be considered a medical malpractice case:
- Failure to provide the appropriate standard of care: US law acknowledges that every medical professional must adhere to certain standards of care. If it’s determined that these standards were not met, the case may qualify as an act of negligence.
- An injury as a result of negligent care: for a medical malpractice claim to be valid, it’s not enough that the patient feels that the healthcare professional was negligent or provided substandard care; the patient must prove that the negligent act caused a physical injury or harm.
- The injury caused significant consequences: for a medical malpractice case to be viable, the patient must demonstrate that the injury caused by medical negligence led to severe or damaging consequences. These consequences may include: chronic pain, suffering and hardship, disability, loss of income, and extensive past and/or future medical bills.
What Factors Lead to Medical Malpractice?
Many different factors can contribute to medical malpractice, but some of the most common include:
- A doctor or medical professional performing their duties while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Inexperience or lack of training
- Overworked staff
- Communication breakdowns between medical professionals
- Inadequate staffing levels
- Poorly maintained facilities and equipment
- Departmental policies and procedures not being followed
What are Some Ways to Prevent Possible Medical Negligence?
There are a few things patients can do to protect themselves and prevent possible medical negligence. These include:
Asking questions and being proactive about your care: it’s important to be an advocate for your health and wellbeing. Patients should feel comfortable asking their doctors or healthcare providers any questions they may have about their condition, treatment plan, or medications.
Researching your doctor: before choosing a healthcare professional, it’s crucial to do some research to make sure they are experienced and reputable. You can start by checking if they have any disciplinary actions against them on their state’s Board of Medicine website.
Knowing your rights: every patient has certain rights when it comes to their healthcare. It’s important to be aware of these rights so you can hold your medical team accountable if they are not met.
Some of these rights include:
The right to be informed: patients have the right to be fully informed about their condition, treatment plan, and prognosis in a way that they can understand. This includes being given information about potential risks and side effects associated with their care.
The right to refuse treatment: patients have the right to refuse any treatment or procedure, even if it’s recommended by their doctor. They also have the right to stop treatment at any time, for any reason.
The right to privacy and confidentiality: patients have the right to have their medical information kept private and confidential. This includes their medical records, test results, and conversations with their doctor.
How Do I Know if I’ve Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
Signs of medical malpractice can range from the obvious to the subtle. If you or a loved one have been injured or have experienced a sudden and unexpected decline in health after receiving medical care, it’s important to explore whether or not malpractice might be to blame. Some common signs to look for include:
- A sudden and unexplained decline in health
- An injury that occurred during treatment
- Injuries that are much worse than expected
- A delay in diagnosis or treatment
If you think you may have been the victim of medical malpractice, the first step is to speak with your doctor. They will be able to review your records and help you determine if there is a potential case. From there, you can decide whether or not to pursue legal action.
What are the Different Types of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice takes many forms, and some types of negligence may be harder to recognize than others. These are some of the most common types of medical malpractice that could lead to a lawsuit:
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a serious condition
- Surgical errors or unnecessary surgical intervention
- Childbirth injuries
- Prescribing the wrong medication or dosage
- Failure to follow up
- Bedsores or pressure ulcers
- Premature discharge
- Failure to warn a patient of known risks
- Medical errors, such as leaving tools, gauze, or other medical devices inside the patient’s body after a surgery
- Failure to recognize symptoms
- Certain types of hospital-acquired infections
- Failure to order proper testing or to act on results promptly
What are the Consequences of Medical Malpractice?
Any time a medical professional fails to provide the appropriate standard of care, patients can be subject to devastating physical, emotional, and financial consequences. Death, permanent disability, mental anguish, loss of work, and a diminished quality of life are just a few of the many possible impacts of medical malpractice.
The consequences of medical malpractice can be far-reaching and devastating, both for the patient and their family. Some common examples include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of income
- Diminished quality of life
- Wrongful death
In some cases, the consequences of medical malpractice may not be immediately apparent. For example, a birth injury or mistake made during surgery might not cause problems until years later, when the child is starting school or the patient is experiencing complications from the surgery. This can make it difficult to prove that the medical error was the cause of the current problem.
In addition to the physical and emotional consequences, medical malpractice can also take a toll on one’s finances. The cost of medical care, lost wages, and other related expenses can quickly add up, leaving victims and their families struggling to make ends meet.
What Isn’t Considered Malpractice?
It’s important to understand that not every bad outcome or poor medical experience is the result of malpractice. For a case to be successful, there must be evidence that the health care provider fell below the accepted standard of care and that this negligence led to an injury or harm. Additionally, the plaintiff must be able to show that they suffered some type of damage as a result of the malpractice.
For example, if a patient is unhappy with the results of their cosmetic surgery, this alone would not be grounds for a malpractice claim. However, if the surgeon left a surgical instrument inside the patient’s body, causing serious injuries, this would be considered malpractice.
Another common example is when a patient is not happy with the outcome of their treatment. Even if the treatment was unsuccessful, this does not necessarily mean that malpractice occurred. The key is whether or not the health care provider followed the accepted standard of care when providing treatment.
What Do You Do If You Feel You’ve Undergone Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one feels that they have been the victim of medical malpractice, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. In most cases, you will only have a limited amount of time to file a claim, so it’s important not to delay.
You should first seek legal counsel from an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can help you investigate your case and determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit. If it is determined that you do have a case, your attorney will work with you to gather evidence, build your case, and file the necessary paperwork.
You may also want to file a complaint with your state’s medical board. This is a regulatory agency that licenses and disciplines healthcare professionals. The board will investigate your complaint and, if they find merit to it, they may take disciplinary action against the responsible parties.
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be a long and complex process, but working with an experienced attorney can help you get the compensation and justice you deserve.
Does a Misdiagnosis Count as Medical Malpractice or Negligence?
A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can have serious consequences for patients, especially if the condition is cancerous or otherwise life-threatening. In some cases, a misdiagnosis may be due to negligence on the part of the doctor, while in others it may simply be an honest mistake.
To prove that misdiagnosis was due to medical malpractice, you will need to show that the doctor failed to provide the standard of care that a reasonable doctor would have provided in the same situation. This means showing that the doctor made a mistake that another doctor with similar training and experience would not have made.
What are the Time Limits for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Every state has what is known as a “statute of limitations” for filing medical malpractice claims. This is a law that sets a deadline for taking legal action. In most states, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is two to three years from the date of the alleged negligence.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if the victim is a minor, the deadline may be extended until they turn 18 or 21 (depending on the state). There may also be exceptions if the victim is mentally disabled or if the negligent act was not discovered right away (such as in cases of misdiagnosis).
Raising Awareness for Victims of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is a serious problem in the United States, and it’s one that many victims are reluctant to speak out about. But by sharing your story, you can help raise awareness about the issue and potentially prevent someone else from going through what you’ve been through. You can share your story with organizations like Patients for Patient Safety or Speak Up Now, which are dedicated to raising awareness about medical errors and improving patient safety.
Medical malpractice ranges in severity, but all cases have the potential to cause serious harm. Such malpractice can have devastating consequences for victims and their families. If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Seek legal counsel from an experienced medical malpractice attorney to learn more about your rights and options.