Doctors and other medical professionals have a legal duty to provide care that aligns with standards accepted by the medical community. When a doctor does not meet those standards and purposefully or accidentally harms a patient, patients have the right to bring a medical malpractice claim against their doctor.Actions and inaction that qualify as medical malpractice have dire consequences for patients, including worsening conditions, long-term complications, and death. Various medical errors and omissions give rise to medical malpractice lawsuits. If you have fallen victim to medical malpractice, consult with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer to learn about your rights.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice Claims Against Medical ProfessionalsMedical negligence can lead to medical malpractice lawsuits. Medical negligence happens when a doctor fails to perform or fulfill their medical responsibilities or makes a medical mistake. These are situations in which a competent doctor would have acted differently. A medical malpractice lawyer can determine if your injuries were the result of a medical professional being negligent in your care. The following are common types of medical malpractice claims:
Failure to Diagnose/MisdiagnosisDiagnostic errors are the most common medical errors, making them the most common type of medical malpractice claim. According to one study, about 12 million people experience diagnostic errors each year across the United States. Diagnostic errors include diagnosing the wrong illness or disease or the failure to diagnose any medical condition at all. Failure to diagnose and misdiagnoses create various dangers for patients. Depending on the situation, a patient's condition might worsen, and a delayed diagnosis could prevent them from getting the treatment they need. Patients who receive the wrong treatment or no treatment face death in some cases. Some medications have adverse effects when someone is given the wrong medication. Surviving some types of cancer and other terminal diseases hinges on early detection, so any delay in treatment can have devastating consequences.
Unfortunately, Child Birth Injuries are also among the most common medical malpractice cases. Sometimes infants have congenital disabilities that require special treatment. However, many birth injuries, such as cerebral palsy, occur because of negligence. Examples of negligent acts that lead to birth injuries include:
- Improper use of forceps, extraction vacuums, and other birthing tools
- Failure to diagnose and treat fetal distress during pregnancy, labor, and delivery
- Waiting too long or failing to perform a C-section
- Failure to monitor a newborn's oxygen levels
- Improper administration of an epidural
- Starving a newborn of oxygen by prematurely cutting the umbilical cord
When doctors used paper prescriptions, sloppy handwriting made it difficult for pharmacists to fill them, which can cause medication errors. Today's pharmaceutical errors signal a much larger problem. In most cases, doctors enter prescriptions online or on a computer, making them easy to read and interpret. Therefore, today's medication errors come from incorrect data entries or doctor or pharmacist errors.Doctors sometimes prescribe the proper medication for an illness or disease but provide the wrong dosage. In other cases, the pharmacist filling the prescription might make a mistake. Finally, registered nurses who distribute medication can make errors, especially in hospitals and nursing homes where many patients need medication at different intervals.
Treating the Wrong Patient
Fortunately, medical professionals do not mix up patients that often. However, when they treat the wrong patient, it's likely to qualify as medical malpractice. The World Health Organization (WHO) has devoted ample resources to warn people and the medical community about the dangers of improperly identifying patients.Treating the wrong patient can lead to many other medical errors, and when everything snowballs, the consequences could result in wrongful death. Examples of medical errors that stem from wrong patient treatment include medication errors, blood transfusion errors, and releasing newborn babies to the wrong family. These are medical mistakes that should never happen. Yet, they do occur on occasion, devastating victims and their families.
Surgical errors have been reduced due to technology increasing the safety of surgeries, making the prospect of “going under the knife” far less fearsome than it once was. However, surgeons and their teams still make mistakes. Technology does not erase human error. Whether having a common surgery like an appendectomy or a major surgery such as an organ transplant, patients take on risks when they undergo surgery. Some serious surgical errors that give rise to a medical malpractice claim include:
Improper Anesthesia Administration
The improper administration of anesthesia is a medication error typically associated with surgery but might be associated with a less invasive procedure. Some patients fear waking up in the middle of surgery and feeling pain as the surgical team cuts into their bodies. Their fears are not unfounded. Common anesthesia errors include:
- Improper dosage
- Substituting medications
- Doctors with little experience
- Improperly labeled or unlabeled syringes
- Improper pump use
- Failure to take a complete patient history to discover drug allergies
Operating on the Wrong Area of the Body
Wrong-procedure and wrong-site surgical errors can be related to treating the wrong patient, but these egregious medical mistakes can also occur because of poor surgery preparation. Surgical teams need to read a patient's chart and speak with them to ensure they have the right person and body area.Although these cases are rare, they invariably lead to a medical malpractice claim. To help doctors avoid performing wrong surgeries, medical professionals in many institutions must follow the Universal Protocol, a set of standards that dictate best medical practices. However, Universal Protocol only works when people follow it. Mistakes can still happen.
As mentioned above, human error plays a prominent role in surgical mistakes. One appalling blunder that can qualify as medical malpractice error is when a surgical team closes up a patient after surgery and leaves a foreign object in their body. This mistake is called surgical leftovers.Surgeons and their teams use various tools, including blades, scissors, forceps, clamps, and electrodes. Even if surgical teams get all the tools out of a body, they might leave cotton swabs, gauze, or surgical sponges inside the body. Foreign objects left in the body can lead to all types of complications. The worst part about surgical leftovers is that it could take months or years for patients to be diagnosed with having a surgical leftover, and when they do, patients typically need to undergo a second surgery to remove the object.
Unneeded Surgeries and Treatment
Unneeded surgeries occur far too often. These surgeries can be the foundation of a viable medical malpractice case if the surgery harms the patient or doesn't provide as good an outcome as another option. Some doctors and researchers continue to warn of unnecessary surgeries, but other doctors continue to put their patients under the knife. Experts argue that the biggest reason for unneeded surgeries is that doctors and surgeons do not keep abreast of the latest developments in the medical field. In turn, patients suffer by undergoing outdated treatments.Spinal fusion and knee meniscus surgeries are among the most common unneeded surgeries since other treatment methods may be more beneficial. Doctors who perform unnecessary surgeries put their patients at risk for surgical complications and prevent them from exploring better, less-invasive solutions for their ailments.
Air embolisms are common medical errors that sometimes serve as grounds for a medical malpractice claim. An embolism is a bubble in the bloodstream that occurs after a medical procedure. They are entirely preventable, happen quickly, and can easily lead to severe injuries or death.The most common procedure leading to an air embolism is placing an IV. Nurses sometimes create holes in the tubing when inserting or removing an IV. The holes allow air to seep into the bloodstream. Additionally, nurses and doctors who insert an IV must properly prime the tubing to avoid an air embolism. Finally, removing an IV requires preventing air from getting sucked back into a person's vein. Without proper removal, an air embolism might develop.
After hospitalization, many patients feel eager to return home. However, patients should not decide when to go home; doctors should. Sometimes doctors feel pressured because of overcrowded hospitals, so they discharge someone. While keeping the patient in the hospital longer than needed is not helpful, sending them home too soon is far worse—especially for those who live alone without family or friends to monitor their health.Early discharge leaves patients helpless and at risk for fatality or permanent damage. If a doctor sends a patient home before it's safe to do so, they open themselves up to a medical malpractice lawsuit. Early discharges often fall under the broad umbrella of “failure to treat” medical malpractice claims. Other examples of the failure to treat a patient include:
- Failing to provide proper aftercare instructions.
- Failing to screen based on symptoms.
- Failing to order needed scans or tests.
- Failing to obtain or consider a patient's medical history when recommending treatment or prescribing medication.
Bedsores, sometimes called pressure sores, often occur when a hospital patient or nursing home resident does not get the necessary care. Medical professionals must adjust the position of those hospitalized to ensure sores do not develop on parts of the skin touching the bed or their wheelchair. Failure to reposition patients regularly ultimately leads to skin wounds. Continued neglect creates more severe bedsores.A pressure sore will eat through multiple layers of skin and fat, sometimes showing bone in the worst cases. Aside from the excruciating pain, severe bedsores can lead to infection. Once a patient contracts an infection in a pressure sore, there is a chance it could spread throughout the body. These infections can be fatal, especially for elderly patients or those with compromised immune systems.
Failure to Prevent or Treat Infections
Medical professionals need to follow strict protocols to protect patients from contracting an infection, especially those with compromised immune systems. Hospitals are full of all types of germs and bacteria that can be dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospital-acquired infections (HAI) exist in about 1 out of 31 patients on any given day. The most common infections include urinary tract infections, blood infections, surgical site infections, and pneumonia from being on a ventilator.On a facility level, hospitals need to maintain a clean environment that includes disinfecting, washing linens, and proper food handling. On an individual level, doctors and other medical professionals must always wash their hands between patients, wear masks, and follow other safety protocols to avoid cross-contamination among patients. Severe infections can cause medical complications but can also lead to death. Examples of infections that can wreak havoc in hospitals and nursing homes include:
- Acinetobacter is a bacterium that is commonly found in healthcare settings. It commonly causes breakouts among severely ill patients, especially in ICUs.
- Clostridioides difficile is more commonly called C.diff. It's often a result of receiving too many antibiotics. It can cause diarrhea, colitis, and fever.
- Gram-negative bacteria cause infections in the bloodstream, pneumonia, wound infections, and meningitis.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a staph bacterium resistant to common antibiotics. MRSA infections can be fatal when they occur in a hospital.
Speak With An Med Mal Attorney About Your Medical Malpractice Claim Today
The medical malpractice claims listed above are only a sample of situations that could harm you or a loved one. If you have experienced a problem you believe qualifies as medical malpractice, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to learn about your legal options.