Seven Common Medical Malpractice Issues
A New York Times article estimates that 200,000 Americans are killed each year from medical errors. There are many different types of mistakes that doctors and care providers can make that lead to such deaths or serious injuries. Patients coping with medical malpractice can also face a wide variety of challenges. However, seven issues that tend to arise again and again in medical malpractice cases in Florida and across the country are:
1. Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesia is used to temporarily block sensory perception, motor transmission and nerve transmission. It can be administered locally (in the area to be numbed), regionally (in a large part of the body) or generally (rendering you temporarily unconscious). Because the drugs used for anesthesia impact communication between the body/nerves and the brain, anesthesia must be administered correctly.
Unfortunately, anesthesia mistakes are made all too often. A 2013 News Medical report, for example, indicated that anesthesiologists can be distracted by visual and auditory cues. They may miss important signals that a patient is in distress. Anesthesiologists can also administer the wrong dose or wrong type of anesthesia – often with deadly results.
2. Surgical Errors
Surgeons have enormous responsibility in all aspects of operating on patients, from carefully monitoring patients for complications during surgery to ensuring that operating rooms are sterile and procedures are performed correctly. Unfortunately, surgeons can make a number of errors. These mistakes include accidentally nicking or damaging vital organs.
Unfortunately, many surgeons are also making grievous mistakes that should never happen. These mistakes include operating on the wrong patient, operating on the wrong body part or leaving surgical towels or tools inside patients. These errors have been dubbed “never events.” They should never occur.
A 2012 Johns Hopkins study estimated that as many as 4,000 never events occur every year. Specifically, 39 times each week a medical device is left behind in a patient; 20 times a week surgery is performed on the wrong patient; and another 20 times in a week the wrong body part is operated on. These errors are unequivocal examples of negligence with potentially deadly results.
3. Emergency Room Errors
Emergency room doctors are expected to be able to respond to a wide variety of serious medical issues. They must be able to provide effective medical care in a fast-paced and stressful environment. But ER doctors can make many mistakes. These errors range from incorrectly diagnosing patients to prescribing the wrong medical treatment. ER mistakes can happen because doctors are tired or overworked in understaffed hospitals.
Emergency room malpractice can happen for other reasons as well such, as when the doctors become distracted and lose their focus. According to a recent Futurity article, research conducted by Michigan State indicated that even small interruptions to professionals such as ER doctors can derail their train of thought and raise the odds of an error. Unfortunately, ER doctors are interrupted frequently in hospital settings.
4. Diagnostic Errors
One of the most basic and fundamental purposes of doctors and other healthcare providers is to diagnose and treat illness. But doctors can misdiagnose patients. They may diagnose patients with the wrong disease or with ailments they don’t have. In some cases, they may fail to see symptoms that indicate a serious medical problem. Diagnostic errors also include misreading tests, missing symptoms and coming to the wrong conclusion.
These mistakes are all too common. A recent study published by BMJ Quality & Safety indicated that 40,500 patients die annually as a result of diagnostic mistakes made in Intensive Care Units (ICUs).
These diagnostic errors can also have serious consequences. A 2008 Wired.com article indicated that the cancer cure rate for some cancers could drop from 90 percent with early detection down to 10 percent if a doctor delayed diagnosis. A failure to diagnose a blood clot, brain bleeding or other serious medical issues could also have immediate and potentially fatal consequences for the patients whose doctor let him down.
5. Childbirth Injuries
According to Medline Plus, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that complications in childbirth are becoming more common. In the year 2008-2009, 129 out of every 10,000 women who gave birth experienced severe complications. This is a 75 percent increase from just a decade ago.
While the CDC indicates that the complication rate is still relatively low, a 2006 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project reported as many as 157,000 avoidable birth injuries occurred to babies and mothers during the course of the year.
Childbirth injuries can occur when a doctor fails to provide proper prenatal care or screening, when a doctor misses problems prior to birth, such as preeclampsia or a breech baby or when the doctor does something wrong during the birthing process. For example, doctors may miss signs of fetal distress and/or unreasonably delay a Caesarean section, putting the child at risk. Doctors may also damage a baby with the aggressive use of forceps or a vacuum. Birth injuries that commonly result due to doctor negligence include brain damage, cerebral palsy and shoulder dystocia.
6. Expensive Medical Care Costs
Getting medical care in the United States is expensive. There is no arguing that fact. According to the Huffington Post, a recent Gallup poll found that 32 percent of Americans have forgone medical care for financial reasons. Even for those with excellent insurance policies, not every type of treatment is going to be covered. You may be faced with co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses that your insurance won’t pay.
If you have suffered a serious illness or injury that directly resulted from your doctor’s malpractice, that illness or injury could cripple you financially as well as physically, especially if you need emergency care or lifetime care. This should never happen.
7. Challenges in Proving Malpractice Cases
Proving medical malpractice is always difficult. These cases center around technical and complex facts. For instance, you have to establish that the doctor fell short of providing reasonable care and whether this negligence served as the actual cause of injury.
Additionally, the healthcare provider can raise defenses. One of the most commonly asserted defenses is the assumption of risk. The healthcare provider may argue that the patient had been fully informed about and accepted all known risks and consequences of a certain procedure or treatment. This defense can be challenged by looking at whether the specific risk was disclosed to the patient and in other ways.
Another controversial aspect of Florida medical malpractice law is that if someone dies as the result of medical malpractice, and there is no surviving spouse or child under age 25 (see the definition of “child children under Section 768.18(2) of the Florida Code), then there is no one who can bring a claim on behalf of the deceased.
On June 27, things will become even more complex for plaintiffs with the enactment of a new “tort reform” bill. This new bill now requires any out-of-state expert witness to become certified as an expert witness by an accrediting state board. Medical boards and dentistry boards were also asked to draft new informed-consent laws for surgical procedures. The bill established several other new requirements. A Florida lawyer can help one to navigate this new landscape.
A Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Assist You
Understanding these issues can be overwhelming, especially for patients coping with medical challenges caused by malpractice. Because of the significant complications in malpractice cases, many victims turn to legal professionals to deal with the issues and to handle the claim on their behalf.
At Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, we can help you when your doctor has made a medical mistake and work hard to make sure you and your family to obtain the compensation you need and deserve. To learn more and schedule a free consultation, call us today at our toll-free number or use our online form.
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