When we visit the doctor, whether it’s for a simple check-up or a more complicated surgery, we expect they will act with the utmost care and professionalism: After all, our lives are quite literally in their hands. In spite of this, preventable medical errors remain the third leading cause of death for U.S. adults, and thousands of people also sustain catastrophic injuries as a result of physician negligence each year.
With so many examples of careless medical practitioners, it might sound like an easy feat to hold them accountable for these actions. However, for many patients, it can feel both overwhelming and confusing to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against the negligent party, precisely because it’s difficult to identify where a medical error took place.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the most common medical errors that are reported, and how you can spot the signs of negligence.
What Are the Most Common Medical Errors?
From waking up in the middle of surgery to becoming sick with a dangerous infection after leaving the hospital, many of the most common medical errors sound less like an everyday occurrence and more like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Unfortunately for many injury victims, these errors aren’t just the stuff of fiction – they cause real, ongoing pain for the people who have been affected.
Of course, not every medical error is caused by a faulty hand during surgery. Even when physicians strive to do their best and help their patients, internal communication can often break down over the course of a busy day at the hospital or clinic. That means that even the best physician must be vigilant against prescription errors and other problems that can result from poor communication.
Here are some of the most commonly reported medical errors and how to spot them:
- Prescription errors. The FDA estimates that over 1 million patient injuries, complications, and deaths are directly caused by prescription errors. One of the best ways to check if you’ve experienced this kind of error is to thoroughly read all the instructions and labels that come with your medication, and to see the doctor immediately if you experience adverse effects.
- Misdiagnosis. Based on survey data, it’s believed that misdiagnosis is the most common medical error of all. It’s also one of the most dangerous, precisely because it can be so difficult to spot until it’s too late. When in doubt about your diagnosis and treatment, always confirm with a second medical professional.
- Unnecessary testing. Contrary to popular belief, repeated exposure to CT and MRI scans can be dangerous for your health. Additionally, hundreds of people experience infections from basic blood draws and other testing procedures each year. If you became sick after your doctor prescribed additional tests, you may want to take a closer look at your diagnosis, to see if those tests were truly necessary.
- “Never” events. When a surgeon leaves behind a sponge in a chest cavity, this is called a “never” event by medical practitioners. In spite of the name, this kind of lapse happens a lot more frequently than you might think. To spot a “never” event, look for signs of worsening symptoms in the week after surgery, or for new symptoms that never go away.
- Hospital-acquired infections. Sepsis and infection are leading causes of death at the hospital, and both can be fatal if left untreated. With millions of Americans experiencing sepsis every year, it’s important to know the symptoms so you can seek help: Fever, chills, confusion, and rapid breathing.
- Premature hospital discharge. When hospitals and clinics become busy, they may try to move people out faster to maximize their capacity. This tactic can lead to fast turnover, and you may be sent home before it is safe. If you feel like the discharge is happening too soon, ask yourself if you can get around and function normally without any assistance. If not, you may have been discharged too quickly.
- Wrong-site surgical errors. Have you ever had a nightmare about someone operating on you for no reason? If so, you’ve already experienced the terror of a wrong-site surgical error. When doctors fail to triple-check the area being operated upon, you may suffer ongoing complications in addition to a recurrence of the original symptoms.
Negligence and Physician Liability
When any of the errors above happen to you, it may indeed feel overwhelming to consider a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, with the help of our experienced Baltimore team, you can rest assured that we’ll be on your side every step of the way. Physicians are not above the law, and when they fail to exercise due diligence, we can fight for justice on your behalf. With over 50 years of experience, we can ensure that the physician is held accountable for his or her negligence.
Contact us today at (410) 698-1717 for a free consultation.