What Causes Medical Malpractice?

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Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to perform their duties proficiently. Whether a patient is severely impaired after receiving an improper dosage of medication, an individual suffers from complications after laboratory results are misread, or another medical error occurs, medical malpractice is caused by negligence on behalf of a doctor, surgeon, or medical staff.

As patients, we like to believe that our doctors can cure any problem we may be experiencing. Sore throat? No problem, there’s a treatment for that. Broken bone? That can almost always be fixed with a cast or surgery. Cancer? There are experts out there who can develop the best treatment plans to fight this disease.

Unfortunately, devastating and debilitating errors are still made every day. This is why medical providers must carry medical malpractice insurance. In a medical system that is full of rules, procedures, and technological advances, you are likely wondering how such negligence occurs.

What Are Some Common Causes Of Medical Malpractice?

Medical negligence can occur in numerous ways. The following are a few of the most common causes of medical malpractice:

Neglect – The reality is that it is extremely easy for medical patients to become victims of neglect. If all of the surgical equipment is not properly sterilized, the correct surgery site is not verified, or all of the surgical instruments and materials are not accounted for after the procedure, patients can suffer significant consequences. The risk of medical neglect continues even after a procedure is over. There have been instances where the alerts on monitors were muted, so nurses never even knew that patients were in distress, and some patients have passed away from drug complications because they were not properly monitored.

Unprepared Medical Professionals – While you may put a lot of time and effort into finding the right doctor to treat your condition, not all medical professionals do the same for their patients. If a doctor fails to thoroughly review all of the notes on a patient or a surgeon is unprepared for known complications that may arise, the patient is the one who pays the price for their incompetency.

Fatigue, Drugs, and/or Alcohol – These three factors can significantly impair the judgment and skills of a medical professional. Doctors can work long hours, and extreme fatigue can result in preventable errors. Additionally, a doctor or surgeon who is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol has no business getting near a patient to try to provide medical care, but it does happen to some people.

Lack of Organization – When such vital information is being collected and passed around, it is imperative that doctor’s offices and hospitals be organized. However, amidst the crazy days and hectic schedules, it is easy to get thrown off. If the doctor never sees your lab results or important notes are not entered into your medical chart, it becomes easy to make preventable mistakes.

Failure to Communicate – While you may work primarily with one doctor, the reality is that you have an entire medical staff taking care of you. Doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals must communicate important details about each patient. Failure to communicate can result in patients getting mixed up, the incorrect medication given, or the wrong patient being discharged.

What Types Of Errors Lead To Medical Malpractice?

In addition to knowing some of the root causes of medical malpractice, it is also helpful to see what types of errors can occur. Following are a few of the most prevalent medical errors that are seen in our healthcare system:

Birth Injuries – Statistics have revealed that approximately 7 out of 1,000 babies born in the United States each year suffer from a birth injury. That means there are 28,000 newborn babies injured every single year. While cesarean sections are more likely to have complications than vaginal deliveries, the highest injury rates occur in deliveries where instruments like vacuums or forceps are employed.

Medication Errors – It can be quite easy for a medication error to occur. A doctor may prescribe the wrong medication, or a patient may even receive medication that is intended for someone else. The most common medication errors involve the dosage amounts, meaning that patients end up with too much or too little medication for their condition.

Diagnostic Errors – In the United States, diagnostic errors are the most common type of medical mistake. This could mean that a doctor misdiagnosed a condition or a medical professional failed to diagnose a serious condition in a timely manner. As a result, patients may receive no or incorrect treatments and lose valuable time that could have been used to treat the correct condition.

Surgical Errors – Surgical errors are possible when surgeons are unprepared, or hospitals are unorganized. Whether the wrong patient is operated on, the wrong procedure is performed, the incorrect body site is operated on, or foreign objects are left in the patient, none of these outcomes are acceptable.

How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice Claims In Pennsylvania?

To pursue a Pennsylvania medical malpractice case, you must have four key elements in place:

  • Duty of Care: The medical professional who treated you or the medical facility where you received treatment must have owed you a duty of care for you to pursue a medical malpractice claim. Typically, this is simply showing that you had an established patient-doctor relationship with the provider or the facility.
  • Breach in Standard of Care: Medical malpractice claims hinge on proving that a medical professional did not provide you with the accepted standard of care. The standard of care is defined as what another similarly educated and trained medical practitioner would do in the same situation.
  • Establishing Causation: You must prove that the standard of care violation directly resulted in your injuries.
  • Demonstrating Losses: Damages incurred from medical malpractice form a critical aspect of a claim. They are intended to compensate you for the losses you experienced due to the malpractice. Without quantifiable losses, pursuing a viable medical malpractice suit will be challenging.

What Should You Do If You Suffered Injuries From Medical Malpractice?

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been harmed by medical malpractice, it’s crucial to know your rights and legal options. It's important to find an attorney experienced with medical malpractice law and litigation in Pennsylvania to help you decide how to proceed.

Navigating medical malpractice claims can be complex. Legal and medical knowledge are essential in medical malpractice lawsuits within Pennsylvania. So, choosing a lawyer with the necessary expertise and skills is critical.

At Ross Feller Casey, our seasoned attorneys have a strong history of securing substantial settlements in many medical malpractice suits. With a team that includes Ivy League-trained physicians, we’re equipped to provide the assistance you need. Although you may be eligible for compensation through a medical malpractice claim, there’s a limited timeframe for filing. Don't delay in getting started with your medical malpractice lawsuit.

Contact the leading medical malpractice lawyers at Ross Feller Casey today for a complimentary case review.

About the Author

With more than 20 years of experience as a physician, Dr. Gerald B. Parker brings a unique perspective as a Philadelphia doctor-lawyer to Ross Feller Casey.

Gerald Parker, III

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