Some Common Types of Medical Malpractice

Failure to provide proper healthcare treatment by a doctor, nurse or any other medical professional can lead to medical malpractice cases.  Healthcare professionals are expected to provide you with proper diagnosis, consultation and treatment.  Unfortunately, there are cases where misdiagnosis, poor quality of treatment or wrong treatment, surgical negligence or any other type of error occurs, which can lead to serious consequences for the patient.  It has been found that certain types of errors crop up more often than others.  Listed below are some of the common medical errors that can lead to a medical malpractice suit.

However, before we proceed, a word of caution – just because a medical professional made an error or if you are unhappy with the treatment, doesn’t mean that medical malpractice occurred.  The legal definition of medical malpractice states that the medical professional has been negligent and not provided the same standard of service as laid down by law, which in turn has caused inconvenience or harmed the patient.  It is worth remembering that the onus to prove medical malpractice is on the patient and/or their families.

Delayed or Wrong Diagnosis

Procrastination in diagnosis can result in serious harm, even death for the patient.  In order to treat the patient, the first critical step is correct and timely diagnosis.  Sometimes doctors ignore or dismiss the symptoms that the patient mentions – the doctor might think that the patient simply has a headache, but it might turn out to be a brain tumor.  Unfortunately, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis account for a large percentage of medical malpractice cases.

Failure to order Routine Tests

There are standard procedures laid out, which the medical professionals need to follow.  This is true for all types of illness – from a common cold to any life threatening disease.  Failure to order appropriate tests often leads to an improper diagnosis.  This in turn can lead to the patient receiving the wrong treatment or a delay which could have serious consequences for the patient.

Treatment does not seem to Work

You may find that even after prolonged treatment, your medical condition is not improving, or even seems to be getting worse – this may be the time to seek a second opinion.  Most medical professionals hate admitting that they are wrong, and this can lead to a doctor continuing the treatment despite realizing that his diagnosis or treatment may be wrong.  A second opinion could determine if the previous diagnosis/treatment was wrong.

Serious Condition Diagnosed on the Basis of a few Simple Lab Tests

Medical professionals should use a range of tools for diagnosis.  Starting with listening to you as you relate your symptoms, questioning you and going over your previous medical records, blood and urine tests followed by scanning or imaging if required – these are some of the tests that are required to understand what is going on in your body.  Failure to completely and thoroughly examine the patient, or relying on just a few basic diagnostic tests are signs of medical negligence.  Pronouncing a serious condition where none exists will lead to the wrong treatment which may affect the patient adversely.  Even if the patient does not suffer physical damage due to this wrong diagnosis/treatment, they and their families do undergo mental trauma due to this.

The other point to note with lab tests is that labs do make mistakes.  If in doubt, the medical professional should question the lab about the results.  Unfortunately, most medical professional do not question lab results as much as they should.  If you are in doubt, ask your doctor to have the same tests analyzed by a different lab.

Are you being Over Treated?

The doctor knows best – while this may be true, if you think that the treatment recommended for your illness seems far too much than what you really require, it may help to get a second opinion.  Medical treatments are not cheap and unfortunately, cases of over treatment are far too common in recent years.  Invasive testing and surgical procedures should only be used when less invasive methods or basic treatments cannot suffice.  Additionally, you may be a victim of additional treatments to cover up a misdiagnosis or incorrect administration of medicines.  You have the right to ask your healthcare provider to explain the reason for the multiple treatment types.

It is worth remembering that despite having evidence of any medical malpractice you must have damages in order to make a claim against the medical professional.  Damages can include physical damages, emotional damages, or economic damages.  These damages must be the direct result of the medical negligence/malpractice.


References:

  1. Ankin, H. (2015, August 13). 7 Signs You Might Be a Victim of Medical Malpractice. Retrieved December 22, 2015, from ankinlaw.com: http://ankinlaw.com/7-signs-you-might-be-a-victim-of-medical-malpractice/
  2. Common Signs Of Medical Malpractice. (2015). Retrieved December 22, 2015, from http://personalinjurybureau.com/: http://personalinjurybureau.com/most-common-signs-of-medical-malpractice/173/
  3. Five Signs of Medical Malpractice. (2015). Retrieved December 22, 2015, from law.freeadvice.com: http://law.freeadvice.com/malpractice_law/medical_malpractice/sign-of-medical-malpractice.htm
  4. Kathleen Michon, J. (2015). Medical Malpractice: Common Errors by Doctors and Hospitals. Retrieved December 22, 2015, from nolo.com: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/medical-malpractice-common-errors-doctors-hospitals-32289.html
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3rd Leading Cause of Death – Medical Negligence

Joe Schulte was getting ready to visit his wife at the hospital when he received a call informing him that Paula, his wife, had fallen out of her hospital bed in the ICU.  When Joe arrived at the hospital, the hospital staff assured Joe that Paula was fine.  Except for a little discoloration and abrasions on her right arm, she seemed all right.  The doctor ordered a scan of Paula’s head and X-rays of her right shoulder and upper arm which showed no injuries.  Being sedated, Paula was unable to speak, but the hospital staff assured Joe that everything was fine.

Four days later, Paula was discharged to a nursing home.  No longer sedated, she complained of pain in her right wrist and hip.  The records at the nursing home show that her wrist was swollen at the time of her admission.  Doctors at the nursing home ordered more X-rays and found that her right wrist and right hip were both broken.  Both breaks would require surgery which would mean putting in an artificial hip and a metal plate for her wrist.  The hospital staff at Lawnwood said that they may have missed the broken bones because Paula was sedated and could not communicate about her pain.

Not wanting to send her back to Lawnwood, Joe admitted her to St. Lucie Medical Center, where she was under the care of Dr. Shute, an orthopedic surgeon.  On August 24, 2012, Paula underwent surgery where her hip was replaced and a metal plate affixed to her right wrist.  Five days later she returned to Emerald Health Care for physical therapy.  Caregivers noted swelling and yellow discharge from the incision on her hip.  Three weeks after the operation, Dr Shute diagnosed two infections on her hip joint.  He opened the wound and cleaned out the infection.  The explanation that Joe received was that “these infections sometimes happen.”  To combat Paula’s infections, a port was installed in her chest and she was given Cefepime, a drug that has a warning issued by the FDA, as a cause of non-conclusive seizures.  Paula’s condition however, kept deteriorating further, until finally she was put on life support equipment.  Joe took stock of Paula’s suffering and decided that it was too much – he decided to let her go.  On his instructions, doctors unplugged Paula from life support and she was no more.

Medical Negligence on the Rise

An increasingly prevalent problem in the US, medical negligence is now the 3rd leading cause of patient deaths.  Although the exact numbers are not, and probably will never be known, medical negligence causes the death of more than 100,000 people annually in the US alone.

The majority of people believe that errors in treatment are made by inexperienced doctors or surgeons.  The truth however, is that even the most experienced doctor or surgeon make mistakes that lead to serious consequences for their patients, including death.  Medical errors occur more frequently that you would imagine.  Mistakes due to staff shortage, overworked healthcare personnel or improperly trained staff are a common feature in the medical world.  According to several research studies over the last decade, the deaths due to medical errors per year can be broken down as:

  • 12,000 deaths due to unnecessary surgery
  • 7000 deaths due to medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 deaths due to other errors in hospitals
  • 80,000 deaths due to infections contacted in hospitals
  • 106,000 deaths due to the negative effect of drugs administered.

Most doctors, in fact the majority of them, will face a medical malpractice lawsuit at some point in their career.  However, nearly 80 percent of these lawsuits will end up with no payouts at all.  In order for a medical malpractice suit to proceed, it has to be proven that the medical professional violated the general standard of care as set forth.  The burden of proof is on the patient or their families to show that there was indeed medical negligence that caused the harm.  Despite these stipulations and the fact that most cases of medical negligence never reach the courts, roughly $39 billion has been paid to affected patients and their families, between 1986 and 2010.


References:

  1. Allen, M. (2013, September 19). How Many Die From Medical Mistakes in U.S. Hospitals? Retrieved December 22, 2015, from http://www.propublica.org/: http://www.propublica.org/article/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-us-hospitals
  2. Barbara Starfield, M. (2000, July 26). America’s Healthcare System is the Third Leading Cause of Death. Retrieved December 22, 2015, from http://www.health-care-reform.net/: http://www.health-care-reform.net/causedeath.htm
  3. Cheeks, D. (2013, May 16). 10 Things You Want To Know About Medical Malpractice. Retrieved December 22, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/: http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/05/16/10-things-you-want-to-know-about-medical-malpractice/
  4. McCann, E. (2014, July 18). Deaths by medical mistakes hit records. Retrieved December 22, 2015, from http://www.healthcareitnews.com/: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/deaths-by-medical-mistakes-hit-records
  5. Medical Negligence Now 3rd Leading Cause Of Death In U.S. (2015). Retrieved December 22, 2015, from http://personalinjurybureau.com/: http://personalinjurybureau.com/medical-negligf-death-in-u-s/188/

Questions about Pneumonia

What is Pneumonia?

An acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, making it painful to breathe and limiting the oxygen intake, pneumonia is spread through coughing and sneezing.  Pneumonia is the single largest infectious cause of death in children all over the world.  Killing an estimated 922,000 children in 2015, pneumonia accounted for 15% of all deaths in children below 5 years of age.  Pneumonia affects humans of all ages; however, it can be prevented and treated with low –cost, low-tech medication and care.

What causes Pneumonia?

A number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi are responsible for causing pneumonia.  The most common of these are:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children;
  • The second most common bacterial cause is Haemophilus influenza type b;
  • The most common viral cause is respiratory syncytial virus; and
  • Pneumocystis jiroveci is one of the most common causes in children infected with HIV.

What are the symptoms of Pneumonia?

Most of the symptoms of bacterial and viral pneumonia are very similar; however, viral pneumonia symptoms may be more in number than bacterial pneumonia.  People with difficulty in breathing, wheezing or coughing, with or without fever are diagnosed for pneumonia by the in-drawing of the lower chest wall during inhalation accompanied by rapid breathing.

How is Pneumonia transmitted?

Viruses and bacteria commonly found in the nose and throat can infect the lungs if inhaled.  Air-borne droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze can also spread pneumonia.  An infected mother can transmit pneumonia through blood, especially during and immediately after giving birth.  Ongoing research on the various pathogens and their methods of transmission is helping in the treatment and prevention of pneumonia.

What increases the risk of contracting Pneumonia?

A weakened immune system makes the individual stand a higher risk of contracting pneumonia.  Malnutrition in children is a primary cause of the infection, more so in infants who have not been breastfed.  Air pollution inside the house caused by wood or dung fires, cigarette smoke and overcrowded living areas all increase the chances of contracting pneumonia.

How is Pneumonia treated?

Treatment for pneumonia is both inexpensive and easy.  In the majority of cases, pneumonia is treated by administering oral antibiotics like amoxicillin.  However, in severe infections or where the patient is very weak, hospitalization may be required for the treatment.

How can Pneumonia be prevented?

Proper nutrition especially for children is the biggest factor in the prevention of pneumonia.  Breastfeeding infants for the first six months help build the child’s natural defenses, which is important in combating all types of illness including pneumonia.  Immunization and vaccinations against Hib, measles, whooping cough and pneumococcus are very effective in the treatment of pneumonia.  A clean and smoke free indoor environment, good hygiene and basic precautions in crowded places go a long way in combating this problem.


References:

  1. Pneumococcal Disease Fact Sheet for the Media. (2015). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from National Foundation for Infectious Diseases: http://www.nfid.org/idinfo/pneumococcal/media-factsheet.html
  2. Pneumonia. (2015, November). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs331/en/
  3. Pneumonia Fact Sheet. (2014). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://worldpneumoniaday.org/: http://worldpneumoniaday.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Final-WPD-2014-Fact-Sheet1.pdf