4 Common Causes for Medical Malpractice Suits
Medicine is a rapidly changing field, with new conditions and diseases emerging just as fast as new pills, treatments, and best practices. Because of this, patients who’ve suffered a medical mistake or mishap are often unsure if a healthcare provider has violated their rights and failed in his or her obligations to the patient.
Not every bad outcome justifies a malpractice case. However, many victims hesitate to file medical malpractice suits because when it comes to our health, we’re used to feeling like things are beyond our control. This makes sense: you could fall ill because of an unknown virus or bacteria, or develop a never-before-seen condition or complication; a medication could cause a reaction impossible for a doctor to foresee, or an organ could fail.
Much in the field of healthcare is beyond your power and beyond even your doctors’ powers to control – but this isn’t always the case. All too often, patients suffer because of a healthcare provider’s breach of duty: negligence, carelessness, or failure to communicate while treating a patient. Below are four of the most common causes for medical malpractice suits.
A 2005-2009 study published in the Journal of American Medicine found that 34 percent of medical malpractice claims came from a surgical incident. There are several different types of common surgical errors:
- Surgical Fires: The proximity of fuels, igniters, and accelerants during surgery can cause fires inside or outside the body. Fires inside the body are beyond anyone’s control, but fires outside the body are unacceptable. A malpractice attorney can tell you which healthcare provider might be liable for your injuries from a surgical fire.
- Anaesthesia Complications: Full anaesthesia will make you unconscious, requiring an anaesthesiologist or nurse anaesthetist to monitor your vital signs, including oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. You should know who your anaesthesiologist is. He or she should meet with you before your procedure to explain what will happen and give you a consent form to sign. Even if you’ve signed a consent form, your anaesthesiologist is still responsible for providing you with the proper standard of care, and is also liable for the conduct of the nurse anaesthetist.
- Wrong Surgical Site: It’s horrible to contemplate, but some patients end up at the wrong surgical site, and/or undergo the wrong procedure. All healthcare providers present at a surgery should take part in a “Surgical Time Out,” so that they can check to make sure the patient is in the right place and that they are about to perform the right type of surgery. All providers in the room should participate and answer aloud during the Time Out.
Any surgery will involve a surgeon, a surgical assistant, a circulating nurse (who runs the Time Out), a scrub nurse (who hands implements to the surgeon), an anaesthesiologist, and possibly a nurse anaesthetist. You should know who these people are, and you should have communicated with the surgeon, surgical assistant, and/or anaesthesiologist before the procedure begins. As you can see from the examples above, most surgical injuries or other mishaps result from poor communication among healthcare providers. Speak up and ask questions to help avoid a surgical catastrophe.
A 2006 New England Journal of Medicine study found that obstetrician-gynecologists (OBGYNs) account for 19 percent of defendants in medical malpractice cases – more than any other type of medical provider. Two common types of birth injuries are:
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC): Premature babies are especially at risk of NEC, a gastrointestinal disease occurring when inflammation of the bowels causes damage. It usually occurs during the first two weeks of life, after feeding has begun. Infants with this disease are more prone to infection and have some difficulty with blood and oxygen circulation and digestion.
The symptoms of NEC may include:
|o Poor tolerance to feedings
o Bloating and tenderness
o Bile-colored vomit
o Bloody stool
|o Redness of the abdomen
o Increase in stool
o Lack of stool
- Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP): Premature babies are also at risk of ROP. This occurs when newborn’s retinas begin to develop abnormal veins, which cause tension that can detach the retina, leading to permanent blindness.
Common causes of vision damage in newborns include:
- Exposing newborns to toxins.
- Improper use of oxygen therapy following birth.
- Failing to provide timely, regular eye exams to high-risk infants.
- Failing to diagnose ROP when symptoms are clearly present.
- Failing to treat ROP promptly or adequately.
Physicians can test for ROP and treat it easily if they diagnose the condition early enough. If your newborn suffers vision damage, you may have a medical malpractice claim.
While the statute of limitations allows plaintiffs to file within two years of an instance of medical malpractice, if the incident occurred to a newborn, the statutory limit extends to a child’s eighth birthday. If you feel your child isn’t developing properly, talk to your physician first, get all of your child’s medical records, and consider consulting with a medical malpractice attorney.
The companies that make medications, the doctors who prescribe them, and the pharmacists who fill them are responsible for getting you the right medicine and the right dose. Common prescription medication errors include:
- The wrong drug.
- The wrong dose.
- The wrong concentration.
- A drug that was administered too quickly.
- The wrong method for administering of the drug.
- A prescription from a physician unaware of the other medications the patient was taking at the same time.
- No warning from the pharmacy to protect patients from an expected drug interaction risk.
One common (and potentially dangerous) drug is coumadin, or warfarin. This is an anti-coagulant: it keeps your blood from clotting. It’s useful when treating patients with atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeats), mechanical heart valves, venous thrombosis, or a pulmonary embolism, but it requires very close monitoring.
Receiving the wrong prescription per se does not justify a medical malpractice claim. If you do not take the prescription, or if no significant physical damages occur, you would spend money on expert witnesses for your case and recover little or nothing.
If you suspect a medication is causing you damage, you should consult with your physician first. Contacting your lawyer is not a priority: remember that you have two years from the time the incident occurred to file a claim.
Failure to Diagnose / Misdiagnosis
When you are injured or sick, you will manifest certain physical signs and symptoms that doctors have spent years of training and practice to be able to recognize. If enough signs and symptoms are present, a physician is obligated to diagnose your condition. Failure to do so could lead to serious suffering, severe damage, or even death. Heart attack misdiagnosis, for example, is one of the more common cases. If a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis leads to damages or a worsening of your condition, you may have a suit.
Fighting for your right to proper care
If you think your case falls into one of these categories, or might otherwise meet the qualifications for medical malpractice, contact the experienced Tampa medical malpractice attorney Betsey Herd today to schedule a free consultation. You can also educate yourself using this comprehensive guide to medical malpractice in Florida.