Common Doctors’ Errors and their Consequences: What Every Patient Should Know


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Every single day throughout the country, individuals put their faith in the skill and expertise of their doctors. We trust that these professionals can sweep in and save the day when our health is at risk and a solution must be found or implemented. However, unfortunate outcomes happen more often than we would like to believe, compromising the health and lives of our loved ones.

If this nightmare has become a reality for someone in your life, they are now a part of the staggering statistics surrounding medical mistakes and diagnostic errors. Researchers at Johns Hopkins reviewed malpractice claims payouts in the United States between 1986 and 2010. They determined that during these 25 years nearly $39 billion was paid in medical malpractice lawsuits surrounding diagnostic errors. Additionally, researchers estimated that anywhere from 80,000 to 160,000 patients suffer from significant permanent injury or death each year due to misdiagnosis or other preventable causes.

Another frightening statistic from Johns Hopkins looks at the occurrence of so-called “never events.” This term is defined as a health care error that is preventable and should never have occurred, like performing the wrong procedure or operating on the wrong patient. Just in the United States, it is estimated that never events result in the deaths of over 200,000 individuals each year.

While we may be able to acknowledge that doctors are human just like the rest of us and are susceptible to making mistakes, the line is easily drawn when negligence impacts the life of a loved one. Let’s dig a little deeper to look at some of the most prevalent errors that occur within our health care system.

Diagnostic Errors

Diagnostic errors are the most common type of medical mistake made in the United States. These can transpire when a doctor misdiagnoses a condition or fails to diagnose a serious ailment right away. In circumstances like these, the patient may receive incorrect treatments or lose valuable time when effective treatment options are missed.

These types of mistakes happen more frequently than we would like to accept, and even some of the most critical conditions are often misdiagnosed. According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology, various types of cancer are misdiagnosed between 28 and 44 percent of the time. Breast cancer, melanoma, sarcomas and lymphoma are among the specific conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed. Heart attacks are also missed frequently because not everyone experiences defining symptoms, while strokes are often overlooked because the symptoms can mimic other problems.

Medication Errors

According to one report from the Institute of Medicine, medication errors injure at least 1.5 million patients in the United States each year. These pivotal mistakes can occur in several ways. A doctor may prescribe the wrong medication, or the prescription for a misdiagnosis may exacerbate the actual problem being experienced by the patient. In some instances, confusion and disorganization can result in an individual receiving a medication that is intended for another patient. Most frequently, medication errors involve the wrong dosage being administered, so the patient either receives too much or too little of the drug that they need.

Birth Injuries

One of the most devastating types of mistakes made by doctors, both physically and emotionally, is a childbirth injury. Statistics indicate that an estimated 7 out of 1,000 babies in the United States are born with a birth injury, which comes to around 28,000 babies each year. Additionally, according to data compiled by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, cesarean sections are more likely to involve complicating conditions than vaginal deliveries. However, the highest childbirth injury rates occur in situations where instruments, such as vacuums or forceps, are utilized in a vaginal birth.

Common injuries that can occur during childbirth include:

Not only can babies be injured during the childbirth process if adequate measures are not taken, but they can also suffer as a result of negligent prenatal care. This can occur if the doctor fails to identify birth defects, recognize ectopic pregnancies, diagnose a disease that could be contagious to the fetus or identify an important medical condition of the mother.

Taking Action Against Medical Negligence

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, medical negligence ranks as the third leading cause of death in the United States. However, just because you do not get the medical result that you wanted or expected, it does not necessarily mean that the doctor was in the wrong. Additionally, blatant errors are not always immediately recognizable in many instances.

Conditions are frequently misdiagnosed and medical situations change. So in order for any type of legal action to be taken, you must prove that the doctor acted in negligence. Essentially, you must be able to demonstrate that the doctor or provider deviated from the standard of care. This will require expert testimony to prove that no qualified health care provider would have acted in the same way under similar circumstances.

If you think your loved one suffered at the hands of a negligent doctor, it is in the best interest of everyone to seek legal assistance right away. Get justice, and help make sure no one else faces similar results from the same health care provider.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.