Hospital and Emergency Room Malpractice

Hospitals, urgent care clinics, general practice offices, radiology departments, emergency rooms, dental offices, plastic surgery centers and all other professional medical centers are required to perform medical treatment of patients without deviation from the accepted medical standard of care. As such, if a patient injury arises through negligence, the office, clinic or hospital may be held liable as a whole, and sued for any breach of medical duty, or medical malpractice.

In most cases of medical malpractice, one specific doctor, dentist, nurse or other medical professional will be found liable for negligence. However, in many cases, the hospital or clinic employing them may also be held accountable.

Emergency Room Negligence and Malpractice

Emergency rooms are flush with injured and ill patients in need of medical treatment, and the constant demand for medical professional care can lead to mistakes, errors in judgment and failure of medical care.

Errors in diagnosis, misread x-ray results, unnecessary surgery and other medical mistakes can cause undue damages to emergency room patients. In these cases, it is often the hospital itself that may be held liable for the negligent medical care a patient receives.

Issues with Informed Consent

Unlike other times, emergency room visits are not anticipated, and patients often do not have a chance to make decisions regarding their care and treatment options. It is in the hands of the emergency room staff to make critical medical decisions, and often these decisions are made with an extreme sense of urgency.

In terms of medical malpractice and the standard of care, in an emergency situation, medical staff are not required to obtain informed consent, although they are liable for injury should they be found to have administered negligent treatment.

Errors in Emergency Room Diagnosis

Misdiagnosis is one of the major causes of patient injury in an emergency room situation. Often times, medical staff will not take the requisite time to review a patient's symptoms and test or x-ray results which can lead to an improper treatment and further the patient's injury.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions Include:

  • Appendicitis
  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
  • DVT and Pulmonary Embolism
  • Stroke
  • Aneurysm
  • Internal Bleeding

Misdiagnosis of any of the above conditions can lead to serious injury and even death of the patient.

Hospital Acquired Infection

One of the leading causes of patient injury in a hospital setting results from transfer of infection during admittance or treatment. Hospital acquired infections, also called nosocomial infections, are, to an extent, unavoidable in a hospital or medical clinic.

What is a Nosocomial Infection?

By definition, a nosocomial infection is one that a patient suffers which is not secondary to the condition for which he or she was admitted to the hospital. In other words, it is an infection caused by the visit to the hospital itself, not the original injury.

Causes of Infection

There are generally three factors in any medical setting which can lead to a patient acquiring.

Patient Factors

Patient factors include the level of the patients immune system at admittance, the duration of the hospital visit and the severity of the medical condition for which they were admitted.

Often times a patient admitted into a hospital suffering from an illness is already in a state of diminished immunative capacity. For this reason they are extraordinarily susceptible to infection.

Hospital Organizational Factors

Organizational factors pertain to the general hygiene of the hospital setting. This include the overall cleanliness of hospital surfaces, the frequency of cleanings, use of disinfectants, cleanliness of water systems, efficiency of filtration of the air conditioning and heating system and density with which patients are kept.

Iatrogenic Factors

Iatrogenic factors have to due with the level of care with which hospital staff perform their duties. This is especially important when it comes to administering invasive procedures such as intubation, insertion of needles, surgical procedures and catheterization.

Consequences of Infection in a Hospital Setting

The most dangerous issue related to hospital acquired infection is sepsis and septic shock. If a patients infection goes undiagnosed and untreated for too long, sepsis can occur, which is the body ways of fighting off infection.

Unfortunately, sepsis can lead to septic shock which is a potentially life threatening condition. 20-35% of of patients with severe sepsis will die within 30, and those whose condition escalates to septic shock will have only a 50% chance of surviving. These dramatic numbers illustrate why infection and sepsis is such a serious issue in hospital settings.

Hospital Negligence and Liability

A hospital can be held liable if procedure, record keeping or organization (or disorganization) contribute to an undue injury to a patient. Depending on the circumstances of a particular case, the liability for the injury may fall on the hospital as a whole, an individual doctor or both.

A medical malpractice lawyer will evaluate the case and determine the contribution of both parties to the patients injury to establish the best strategy for getting his or her injured client compensation as required by law.

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