When we visit the doctor’s office or the hospital, we expect to be treated with care and respect. Sadly, however, this does not always happen.
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse, or another health care professional causes an injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. This crime can have serious consequences and can come in a variety of forms.
5 Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is more common than more people realize. In fact, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical negligence is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. Five of the most common forms of medical malpractice include the following:
#1. Birth Injuries
Giving birth is often one of the most joyful experiences of a parent’s life. However, this experience can quickly turn tragic when a doctor or nurse makes an avoidable error in the delivery room.
Birth injuries are startlingly common. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there are approximately 1.9 per 1,000 live births in the United States. And, sadly, many of these instances are completely preventable.
Some of the most common reasons for birth injuries include a doctor or nurse:
- Failing to monitor a mother and child for signs of distress
- Failing to respond to signs of distress appropriately
- Failing to use birth assistance tools correctly
- Failing to order a C-section when necessary
A birth injury can have permanent consequences. For birth injuries involving oxygen deprivation and the brain, specifically, the child may suffer permanent consequences. Some consequences of a birth injury include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
- Shoulder dystocia or brachial plexus injury
- Spinal cord injuries
Additionally, many women and children who experience birth trauma suffer from long-term emotional consequences. Such emotional trauma may forever alter the family dynamic, and make one or both parents experience:
- Physical and psychological problems
- Difficulty bonding with the child
- Strained relationship with spouse
- Psychological inability to have another child
#2. Failure to Diagnose
Medical malpractice doesn’t only involve a negligent action; it can also involve a lack of action altogether. One example of this is a doctor’s failure to diagnose a serious medical condition.
The healthcare industry has a systemic issue involving the quick turnaround of patients. Doctors are often encouraged to meet with as many patients as possible. Indeed, many patients can relate to feeling “rushed” during an appointment, or like their doctor does not want to field too many questions or concerns. This can result in patients not receiving enough time and attention for all of their medical conditions to be discovered and treated.
Certain conditions are more likely to be missed than others. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, infections, vascular events, and cancers are most frequently linked to serious and life-threatening diagnostic errors. To that end, some of the most common conditions that experience a missed or delayed diagnosis include the following:
- Breast cancer
- Skin cancer
- Heart attack
- Pulmonary embolism
FAST FACT: An estimated 100,000 people in the U.S. die or are permanently disabled due to a diagnosis that was either missed or delayed.
#3. Surgical Errors
Surgeons have patients’ lives in their hands during a surgical procedure. During such an event, surgeons and their assistants must exercise the utmost care and attention. When they make even one small mistake, a patient could be permanently injured, or even die.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), certain surgical errors are more common than others. Most surgical errors (59%) occur when a surgeon operates on the wrong side of a patient’s body, such as by operating on a patient’s left lung instead of the right. Other common surgical errors include wrong procedure (14%) and wrong patient (5%).
Given the education and experience that surgeons must have, it’s difficult to believe they could commit such costly errors. Yet, according to a recent study, more than 4,000 preventable mistakes occur in surgery every year at a cost of more than $1.3 billion in medical malpractice payouts.
#4. Medication Errors
A doctor’s errors do not only affect patients in the hospital. Many patients experience harm in a different place altogether—the pharmacy.
It’s vital that, once patients leave the hospital, they have the care they need to continue their treatment from home. Part of this regimen often involves taking a variety of medications that should not interact dangerously with each other. However, this does not always happen. Medication errors occur when a doctor makes a mistake prescribing or directing the use of medications for a patient.
Certain medications are more likely to be confused with each other, including the following:
- Labetalol/lamotrigine: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received more than a dozen reports of patients getting labetalol, a blood pressure-lowering medication, instead of the seizure and bipolar disorder drug lamotrigine (or vice versa). These two medications both come in small, white, round tablets.
- Methylphenidate/methadone: This drug mix-up is particularly dangerous since one medication, methylphenidate, is a stimulant prescribed for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while the other, methadone, is an opiate people use to wean from dependence on opioids.
FAST FACT: According to the NCBI, the most common types of medication errors involve the wrong dosage and infusion rate. The most common causes involve using abbreviations instead of full names of drugs and similar names of drugs.
#5. Administrative or Operational Errors
Hospitals are complex environments where hundreds of patients must be seen, treated, and discharged, with little room for errors. Aside from doctors’ and nurses’ vital responsibilities to treat patients correctly, it can be just as important for hospital administrators to perform their duties carefully.
The failure to do can have dire consequences for patients. Common examples of administrative or operational errors in hospitals include the following:
- Forcing a patient to wait too long in urgent care
- Mixing up patient records
- Unsterile conditions in the hospital
- Untrained or inept physicians on staff
- Releasing a patient too soon from hospital care
FAST FACT: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 50% of all medical errors in primary care are administrative errors.
Harmed by Medical Malpractice? We’re Here to Help
If you or someone you love has been harmed by a doctor’s hand, our experienced Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys are here to help. Our team understands the medical science and health care regulations necessary to prove whether malpractice was involved. We ensure that you and your family get the maximum financial settlement possible to help support you through the pain, suffering, and financial losses your family will have to bear due to the mistakes of others.
You don’t have to go through this alone. Call Brown & Barron, LLC at (410) 698-1717 to schedule a free consultation.