All individuals should recognize the aspects of medical malpractice, so they know what to expect in a hospital visit. When a doctor works outside of the duty of care and causes a patient harm, the injured party can file a medical malpractice claim.
Here are aspects of medical malpractice you should know:
- Misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Spinal epidural abscess
- Prescription errors
- Emergency room errors
Here’s an infographic breaking down some alarming stats regarding medical malpractice. Below the infographic, you’ll find more detailed information regarding the aspects above.
Misdiagnosis or Missed Diagnosis
Diagnosis is the cornerstone of any medical treatment a person receives. Patients visit physicians’ offices and hospitals whenever they experience pain or illness. They hope that the doctor they see will recognize the symptoms they display and properly diagnose the condition.
The biggest problem that exists during diagnosis is the fact that multiple conditions can have overlapping symptoms. A cough can be indicative of numerous conditions. Similarly, abdominal pain is not easily identifiable without additional testing. Doctors must order blood testing, digital imaging, and/or other tests to ensure they’re ruling out certain conditions.
Problems occur when the doctor doesn’t have specialized training in advanced conditions. When the doctor fails to recognize specific symptoms and conditions, they don’t order tests that can help identify the exact problem. Instead, the tests do not target the real condition. The doctor either provides an improper diagnosis or doesn’t diagnose a condition at all.
Misdiagnosis leads to other problems such as surgical errors and failure to treat. For conditions like a stroke or cancer, treatment is imperative. A misdiagnosis means the patient does not receive the treatment to cure the ailment properly, the condition worsens, and the results are disastrous.
The aftermath of a misdiagnosis can include surgical errors. While surgical errors can involve physical trauma within a patient during the procedure, these mistakes can also involve the doctor performing surgery on the wrong patient or body part.
Surgical errors can also occur when a doctor leaves objects in a patient post-operation. For instance, the doctor stitches the incision up with gauze still inside the patient. Leaving an object inside a patient can lead to internal organ damage or severe infections.
Spinal Epidural Abscess
Spinal epidural abscess is often the result of a severe infection. The infection can be remote or contiguous, but when caught early, the symptoms are controllable. However, when misdiagnosis occurs, and doctors don’t recognize spinal epidural abscess, the long-term impacts can be devastating.
The symptoms of spinal epidural abscess are:
- Bladder incontinence
- Bowel incontinence
- Back pain
- Urinary retention
As you can see, the symptoms associated with spinal epidural abscess are common and link to many other conditions. Doctors must order specific tests that can help narrow down the condition and treat it effectively. Tests for a spinal epidural abscess can include blood cultures, a CT scan, MRI, urine analysis, or complete blood count.
Another problem stemming from misdiagnosis is a prescription error. When a doctor diagnoses a patient with a condition, they often provide medication to help start the healing process. This prescription can be an antibiotic for an infection, pain reliever for a physical injury, or any other type of medication for a wide variety of conditions.
It’s up to the doctor to write the prescription correctly, and the pharmacy must fulfill this order with safe and effective medication. The staff within the pharmacy must look for the following:
- Does the prescription have the correct name of the medication?
- Does the prescription have a healthy dose of the medication?
- Does the prescription follow guidelines for how long the patient can take the medication?
- Does the prescription have any adverse reactions that can cause the patient harm?
- Does the prescription have an expiration date, and does it impact effectiveness?
- Does the prescription have a negative interaction with other drugs the patient is currently taking?
- Does the prescription fall in line with the patient’s allergies?
There must be a clear understanding by the pharmacy and doctor’s office that a prescription error can result in significant harm. Some medications should never mix, and if they do, the patient may have a negative reaction to it.
If a patient has an allergy, doctors must ensure the prescription coincides with said allergy. Similarly, the doctor must prescribe the correct dosage. Too much of certain medications can lead to an overdose. A small dose does not relieve the problem.
Emergency Room Errors
Did you know that the emergency room experiences over 145 million visits each year? Countless patients go through this department in hopes of getting quick treatment. Some people are there for valid reasons, while others are there for ailments that could wait for a doctor’s visit.
Because doctors in the emergency room see so many patients, there’s significant room for error, including misdiagnosis.
In the emergency room, doctors ask the patient for his or her date of birth upon interaction. This method helps ensure the doctor is speaking with the correct patient. If the doctor does not ask this question, there’s a possibility of switching charts accidentally. A patient could receive the wrong diagnosis, and they might not receive the treatment they need.
Medical professionals are responsible for the health of all patients who walk through the hospital’s doors. Unfortunately, doctors and hospitals often lose focus on this duty of care in their pursuit of profit. They’d rather treat people quickly and send a bill to the insurance company than find the real problem.
At Brown & Barron, our Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys are here to help victims of doctor negligence. We put our clients first and take the time to explain what options are available to pursue justice and compensation.