You might have heard of patients leaving hospitals with more than what they came in for, such as appendicitis patients developing an infection or even sepsis. However, mishaps occur in medical offices, urgent care clinics, and surgical centers, among other healthcare facilities providing medical services. Sometimes, the doctor, nurse, or medical staff is to blame, but accidents or poor outcomes can be no one’s fault. Perhaps you had medical care that left you worse than before you sought care, or you traded one condition for another. You may wonder if you or a loved one’s care is actually enough to be considered medical malpractice. Consider these six common types of medical malpractice and important next steps you should take if you believe your case may involve one of them.
What are the Most Frequent Types of Medical Malpractice Claims?
#1: Diagnostic Mistakes
The first common medical malpractice source is misdiagnosis. No doubt, diagnosis is not a precise science. It works by the process of elimination in most cases. A doctor matches your symptoms, medical history, and physical examination to possible conditions or causes. Then they typically order tests to narrow down the possible causes and discover more clues as to what is going on with your body. For many reasons, a doctor may make a wrong diagnosis, from finding nothing wrong with the patient, to diagnosing the wrong condition. When that happens, the correct diagnosis comes late, or the treatment is unnecessary. Delayed diagnosis can be devastating when an illness needs quick treatment, and some treatments can cause side effects to those who do not need the treatment.
Thus, if a doctor misdiagnosed a patient due to a failure to follow standard protocol, like ordering the proper test or reading the test results competently, they could be liable for medical malpractice. And when a patient’s diagnosis is incorrect, the patient receives the wrong or insufficient treatment. For example, ordering chemotherapy for a patient who does not have cancer or with a different cancer than diagnosed can harm or kill a patient. Careful doctors practicing within approved standards verify their diagnoses with specialists in the field related to the diagnosis. Competent doctors know when they should refer a patient to a specialist or confer with one to confirm their diagnosis.
#2 Mistakes with Surgeries and Procedures
When a patient comes to a medical facility for inpatient or outpatient surgery, they do not expect to leave with surgical equipment in their body. They also do not wish to have the wrong body part surgically treated. These are errors that an inattentive surgeon or their staff may commit and are avoidable with a strict protocol for avoiding such mistakes, like taking time to verify which side of the body needs surgery, which procedure the patient requires, and where all the equipment is before closing the patient.
Unfortunately, sometimes surgeons perform the wrong surgery on the right patient or the right surgery on the wrong patient. Sometimes they injure neighboring organs, nerves, and tissue near the surgery site. Surgical errors can leave patients frightfully disfigured or unnecessarily endangered by undergoing surgery again to fix medical errors.
#3 Medical Device Errors and Defects
Medical devices and tools are additional areas of common malpractice, whether they are defective, used improperly or maintained poorly. Inattention or incompetence using medical devices, such as scans, ventilators, and monitors, can also result in severe injury when medical staff use contaminated or defective tools or equipment and infect a patient. Broken monitors may fail when a patient’s life depends on quick response to heart rate changes in both laboring mothers and their babies. Faulty medical equipment may also be due to a manufacturer’s negligence, which can support a product liability claim. However, if medical staff knew or should have known equipment malfunctioned, they should ensure the equipment is not used on patients or verify its proper functioning. They may be liable for patient damages when they do not take appropriate precautions.
#4 Errors in Pregnancy and Childbirth Care
All patients suffer medical malpractice, regardless of age. No one is immune. However, the younger the patient, the greater the financial and emotional costs in many cases. Whether malpractice occurred before, during, or after birth, an obstetrician’s negligence can cause a family to suffer emotional and financial damage for a lifetime.
Before birth, prenatal care is essential to the health of the mother and baby. The months preceding labor and delivery consist of screenings to see that the pregnant patient and their developing fetus are healthy and growing. Thus, an obstetrician who fails to test and detect typical pregnancy problems like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or macrosomia, risks damaging the health of mother and baby. Moreover, screenings for genetic defects that doctors fail to offer patients at risk from their medical history may support a malpractice claim when a baby is born with a severely debilitating congenital condition.
In addition, failing to monitor a fetus during labor carefully or protect against infection while examining the pregnant patient could lead to irreparable harm. For example, overlooking the fetus’s oxygen deprivation could result in cerebral palsy or a fatal infection passing to the fetus when unsterile hands or instruments infect the mother. Misusing birth instruments and delaying a cesarean section are other forms of negligence that often lead to fractured skulls, nerve damage, brachial plexus injury, providing just cause for medical malpractice lawsuits.
#5 Negligent Prescribing and Medication Administration
Negligence in medication prescription and administration forms the basis of many medical malpractice actions. Doctors may prescribe the wrong medication, dosage, or administration instructions. In other instances, the pharmacist may be at fault for sending the patient home with the wrong medication or instructions. In that case, the pharmacist is liable if the doctor’s prescription did not cause the patient harm.
Nurses in hospitals also contribute to patient injury when they do not follow the doctor’s orders in administering medications as prescribed. They can cause a patient to get too much or too little medicine or none if the administration method is ineffective in getting the drug to the patient where it is supposed to go. The case may be that an improperly supervised nurse made mistakes, or a nurse made an inexcusable error by inattention or haste.
No matter what the case may be, medication errors can leave a patient with horrendous injuries. Many leave a patient with physical disabilities or loved ones with fatalities.
#6 Anesthetic Failures
Anesthesiologists may make mistakes in administering too much or too little pain medication. They can also give a patient the wrong anesthetic, one the patient is allergic to or interferes with the effectiveness of other medications the patient takes. And failing to ensure the patient has fasted for several hours before surgery is another medication administration error. Anesthesiology errors can leave a patient brain damaged when they aspirate vomit, or traumatized when they can feel the surgeon cut into them.
The Common Denominator
The common denominator in all medical malpractice cases is a medical professional’s failure to maintain an adequate standard of care. Sadly, medical professionals get rushed, lazy, and cemented in their ways of practicing medicine. Those circumstances and attitudes lead to errors that other medical professionals practicing medicine at the high standard expected and required by law, and the regulations of their governing boards and associations, do not commit.
The standard for medical providers is not perfection. Mistakes happen, but avoidable errors typically do not occur when they perform their duties as other medical providers do under the same conditions. Proving the standards and a doctor, nurse, or other provider fell below the accepted norms is the job of a medical malpractice attorney with the help of medical experts.
What to do if You Suspect Malpractice Occurred in Your Medical Care
Be sure to speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer about your injuries from medical negligence, as the time is limited to file a claim against the negligent practitioner, hospital, or other facility involved in your case. New Jersey has strict requirements for how long you have and what you must do in the process of filing and legally justifying a medical malpractice action to recover compensation. Fortunately, you can call upon the dedicated medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group for help.
From mothers and their babies, to survivors with lost loved ones, to the elderly, children and adults in the prime of life, our reputable medical malpractice firm has helped them all. In fact, we steadfastly concentrate our practice on these cases for the purposes of providing the best possible representation. No two cases are alike, and we understand how to apply the nuances of the law to the most complex and challenging medical injury situations on a unique basis. Please do not hesitate to receive a no-cost consultation with an attorney on our team who can further assist with your particular situation.