When the term "medical malpractice" is used, people conjure up all kinds of traumatic, sensational images. While it is certainly true that some cases are traumatic, medical malpractice cases vary a great deal. Some of the issues in medical malpractice cases are actually quite simple, and could affect nearly anyone who has ever visited a doctor, hospital, or pharmacy.
What is Medical Malpractice?
It is important to understand that not every unfortunate medical result will qualify legally as medical malpractice. In order to qualify as medical malpractice, a claim must establish that the following criteria have been met:
- That the standard of care was breached: There are certain medical standards recognized as being acceptable by reasonable, prudent healthcare providers. These standards of care must have been breached in order for a claim to be considered medical malpractice. In simpler terms, the patient must show that he or she was not provided with healthcare consistent with the standards of care and expectations based on the doctor-patient relationship.
- That an injury resulted from the breach (negligence): After establishing that the standards of care were breached and the provider was negligent, the patient must prove a correlation between the negligent act or omission, and the injury sustained. That is to say that the patient must show that the injury would not have occurred had the negligent act or omission not occurred first.
- That the injury resulted in significant damages: In order to be considered medical malpractice, the third criteria includes proving that the negligent act or omission causing an injury resulted in significant losses to the patient. Losses may include pain and suffering, loss of income or earning ability, disability, financial hardship, or loss of life.
Most Common Medical Malpractice Cases
While there are numerous actions and omissions that can result in medical malpractice, there are a few types of medical malpractice case that are considered more prevalent than others, including:
- Misdiagnosis: Misdiagnosis is one of the most common forms of medical malpractice. Research indicates that misdiagnosis is one of the most common errors healthcare providers make. The five most commonly misdiagnosed conditions include tumors or masses, infections, heart attack, heart disease, and blood clots (pulmonary embolism).
- Obstetric/Gynecological Negligence (birth injuries): Another common form of medical malpractice is negligent acts or omissions during pregnancy, or during or after delivery. During pregnancy, the health of the mother can be complicated, and it is important that any unusual or suspect symptoms be properly diagnosed and treated. Common obstetrical and gynecological conditions associated with medical malpractice cases include placental abnormalities, lengthy or traumatic labor and delivery, excessive vaginal bleeding, negligence administering anesthesia during c-section, negligence while performing a c-section, and injury to the infant during labor and delivery. Specific to the mother's health, conditions like preeclampsia, diabetes, and hemorrhages are also common in medical malpractice claims.
- Medication Errors: Medication errors are a common form of medical malpractice occurring outside the hospital or operating room. Medication errors may include administration of the wrong medication, administration of the wrong dosage, and administration of medication listed as a known allergy. Medication errors are commonly associated with a lack of communication between doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. Additionally, some healthcare providers may simply be negligent in verifying orders that may be concerning or seem "off".
- Surgical Errors: Surgical errors are traumatic, and often have long-term consequences. The most common surgical errors include operating on the wrong body part, damaging an adjacent nerve or organ, leaving behind a surgical object in the patient, and negligence in administration and monitoring of anesthesia. There are numerous possible reasons that account for surgical errors, including surgeon fatigue, understaffing, operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failure of operating room staff to follow protocol, and failure to follow proper protocol for anesthesia.
Medical Malpractice Cases need Specialized Care
Much like you would seek out a specialist for a difficult health condition, you should also consider consulting an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice before pursuing a claim against any healthcare provider or facility. A skilled, experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you better understand what medical malpractice is, and if you have a case.