It is estimated that up to 400,000 patients in the U.S. die each year from preventable medical mistakes. That overwhelming number makes medical mistakes the third leading cause of death in America, behind only heart disease and cancer. Medical malpractice happens when a doctor, other medical professional or hospital breaches the accepted standard of care, causing the patient injury or harm.
Many of these medical mistakes occur due to insufficient or overwhelmed staff, including doctors. Whatever the reason though, these errors can cause devastating injuries (even death) to patients. Medical malpractice can happen in many different ways, including: misdiagnosis, childbirth errors, medication errors, misread or unperformed testing, surgical errors, and anesthesia mistakes.
Misdiagnosis is the most common medical malpractice claim, accounting for the majority of malpractice lawsuits. Although misdiagnosis can happen with many medical issues, the most misdiagnosed conditions or diseases are infections, cancerous masses or tumors in the body, heart attack, pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung), and heart disease. Generally, misdiagnosis cases are broken down into three categories:
- Overlooked – This happens when a doctor fails to correctly evaluate a patient’s symptoms and a condition or illness is completely overlooked. This type of misdiagnosis can lead to a patient’s condition worsening, even to the point that treatment will no longer work.
- Misdiagnosed condition – This happens when a doctor makes a diagnosis, but it isn’t the actual illness. Misdiagnosing in this way can lead to a patient being given medication or other treatment unnecessarily, which can cause other unrelated medical problems. It can also result in the real condition getting worse and the patient suffering because they have not received the right treatment.
- Delayed diagnosis – This misdiagnosis happens when a doctor doesn’t order the proper tests or fails to evaluate symptoms correctly, only to discover later that the patient has a condition or disease. The delay in correct diagnosing can cause the condition to suffer as it worsens, and may make treatment ineffective.
Errors During Childbirth
There are many things that can go wrong during pregnancy and childbirth to both mother and child, including brain injury, fractured bones, full or partial paralysis, excessive bleeding, failure to diagnose dangerous conditions in the mother (preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, etc.), injuries due to the use of forceps or vacuum extractor, and delay in ordering a cesarean section. Any of these things can occur even when no one has done anything wrong. However, if they occur due to negligence on the part of a medical professional, then they may be considered malpractice and lead to a birth injury lawsuit.
Medication mistakes can happen any time medicine is prescribed or administered. Malpractice occurs when the wrong medication is prescribed for a condition, a medication causes side effects that the doctor should have been aware of (such as prescribing a medicine to a patient with a known allergy), or prescribing or administering the wrong dosage.
Misread or Unperformed Testing
Malpractice can arise when a doctor or other medical professional misreads, misinterprets, or fails to order tests. This can cause a patient to receive the wrong treatment, or no treatment at all, which can allow the patient’s condition to become worse, or have complications due to unnecessary treatment being administered.
Mistakes made in the operating room happen much more frequently than you might think. The most common errors that happen during surgery are failing to control bleeding, nerve damage, and leaving a surgical instrument or sponge inside the patient’s body. Surgical errors also include surgeons performing the wrong operation on a patient, performing surgery on the wrong body part, or even on the wrong patient entirely.
Mistakes made in the operating room can also extend to the anesthesiologist. Mistakes with anesthesia can include administering too much, failing to monitor a patient’s vital signs, improper intubation or using defective equipment. While less frequent than surgical mistakes, anesthesia mistakes can be much more serious, resulting in permanent injury, brain damage, or death.
If you or a loved one have experienced any of the above mistakes, it is important for you to contact a medical malpractice attorney sooner rather than later. There is a statute of limitations for medical malpractice, so your time to file a lawsuit may be ticking away.
At Ross Feller Casey, we can help you navigate the complex waters of medical malpractice. We have experienced lawyers and doctors on staff to help you with your case. Please contact our office to make an appointment for your free case evaluation with one of our medical malpractice attorneys.
All of our medical malpractice cases are handled on a contingency basis, so there is never a cost to you unless a financial award is made in your case.