What Causes Medical Malpractice?


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Medical malpractice takes place when a medical professional fails to proficiently perform his or her duties. Whether a patient is severely impaired after receiving an improper dosage of medication or an individual suffers from complications after laboratory results are misread, 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 an antibiotic 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. In a medical system that is full of rules, procedures, and technological advances, you are likely wondering how such negligence occurs. To help you get a better understanding, following are a few of the 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 for 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 in a lot of time and effort into finding the right doctor to treat your condition, not all medical professionals are doing 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 – It goes without saying that these three factors have the ability to 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, 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 do not make it into your medical chart, then it becomes easy for preventable mistakes to be made.

Failure to Communicate – While you may work primarily with one doctor, the reality is that there is an entire medical staff taking care of you. Doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and everyone else all need to 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.

Now that we have covered 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 health care 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 really can be quite easy for a medication error to occur. A doctor may prescribe an incorrect 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 of the medication that they need for their condition.

Diagnostic Errors – In the United States, diagnostic errors are the most common type of medical mistake seen. 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 they may also lose valuable time that could have been used to treat the correct condition.

Surgical Errors – When surgeons are unprepared and hospitals are unorganized, surgical errors become a possibility. 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.

If you believe that you or a loved one was a victim of medical malpractice, you should contact Ross Feller Casey today.

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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