Legal standards define medical malpractice. Malpractice includes any act or omission by a doctor or health care provider that deviates from the accepted standards of practice in the medical community and causes injury to the patient. The acts and omissions constituting medical malpractice vary from case to case.
Medical malpractice is a form of tort law, which deals with civil wrongdoings, as opposed to criminal law, which deals with criminal wrongdoings. Medical malpractice deals with medical negligence in the health care profession and seeks to redress issues where providers gave substandard care to patients, leading to injury.
If you believe you were a victim of medical malpractice, you have rights. You deserve fair compensation for your injuries, and a medical malpractice lawyer from Newsome Melton can help. Call 1-855-MED-ASKS to schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our team.
What Is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence is any conduct that fails to live up to the standards of the profession.
Medical malpractice laws generally only apply to trained and licensed health care professionals. Good Samaritans and other non-professionals who render aid in emergency situations are mostly exempt from these laws, except in certain states.
What Are the Causes of Medical Malpractice?
There are several causes of medical malpractice. The following actions and inactions by doctors and medical professionals represent some of the most common types of medical malpractice.
Failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis are forms of medical malpractice. When a doctor or health care provider fails to diagnose a medical condition or arrives at the wrong diagnosis, the patient can suffer catastrophic and even life-threatening consequences.
Many medical conditions—certain types of cancer, for instance—progress through stages, making them treatable when caught early but fatal once they reach a certain point. Patients with such conditions put their lives in their doctors’ hands by trusting them to make a timely diagnosis.
Failure to correctly diagnose a serious condition can result in the patient receiving medical treatment for the wrong condition, often causing painful and unnecessary side effects. It also keeps the patient from receiving the treatment or intervention they need to address the condition they have. Due to a lack of treatment, the condition can worsen, often to a point where it becomes inoperable.
If your doctor failed to diagnose a condition that they should have been able to identify, this lack of proper care constitutes a form of medical malpractice. Your doctor, therefore, is liable for any injuries resulting from their substandard care.
Surgical errors make up a significant percentage of medical malpractice cases. These errors are often subtle. Cases of a doctor amputating the wrong limb or transplanting the wrong organ are rare.
Most surgical errors result from negligence in carrying out the procedure. Some common allegations include:
- The doctor failed to practice proper preoperative care;
- The doctor failed to account for a pre-existing condition that required special care;
- The doctor did not follow established procedures;
- The doctor failed to adequately initialize the surgical site before operating; or
- The doctor failed to engage in proper post-operative protocol or did not provide adequate self-care instructions to the patient.
Common complications from surgical errors include:
- Blood clots;
- Acute respiratory failure;
- Metabolic problems; and
- Wound reopening.
Nearly all surgical procedures require either local or general anesthesia. Either the area being operated upon is “numbed,” or the patient is anesthetized for the procedure.
No matter which type of anesthesia doctors use, it is critical for the doctor administering it to get it right. Doing so requires them to take into account the patient’s age, weight, gender, previous medical history, drug allergies, and a host of other factors.
When a doctor skimps on this process and makes an error, severe complications may result, up to and including the patient’s death.
Common anesthesia errors seen in medical malpractice cases include:
- Errors in dosage;
- Delayed delivery;
- Failure to adequately monitor a patient under anesthesia;
- Prolonged sedation;
- Failure to recognize and respond to complications;
- Failure to provide thorough pre-sedation instructions to the patient before the procedure; and
- Defective drug-delivery equipment.
Failure to Obtain Informed Consent
Patients have the right to make informed decisions about their own health care. One of the most important of these rights is the ability to choose whether or not to undergo certain medical procedures. In emergency situations where a patient is incapacitated or not otherwise able to speak for themselves, doctors have a degree of latitude to operate without prior consent from the patient. Otherwise, doctors have a duty to thoroughly discuss the patient’s diagnosis, talk about any treatment alternatives, and obtain informed consent before they begin a medical procedure.
If a doctor treats a patient against their wishes or undertakes a procedure without discussing viable alternatives, the doctor is displaying a reckless disregard for the patient’s freedom of choice. This is a form of medical malpractice. If injury results from the procedure and the patient was not informed of other treatment options, the doctor might be liable for damages.
Health care providers must continue to care for patients to the best of their ability until the treatment is complete. Even if a patient is difficult to work with or uncooperative, doctors cannot terminate care early.
Every year, health care-associated infections (HAIs) strike nearly 2 million patients, result in an estimated 99,000 deaths, and cost our health care system up to $20 billion. Research indicates infections are the most serious complication of hospital care, and the most common infection type is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in every 20 hospitalized patients will contract an HAI.
Incorrect medication administration, dosage, and combinations are all common medication errors which can result in patient harm and qualify as medical malpractice. In addition, patients may be accidentally administered medications they are allergic to, or receive incorrect medications from a pharmacy.
Healthcare Worker Fatigue
Strong evidence shows that healthcare workers who are fatigued are more likely to make medical errors. Because workers in the healthcare field often work extended shifts, facilities that do not ensure against sleep deprivation in their employees may be contributing to the risk of medical malpractice. In fact, a 2003 study found that medical interns who work shifts in excess of 80 hours had a 61 percent increase in needlestick injuries.
Call 1-855-MED-ASKS Today for a Free Consultation With a Medical Malpractice Attorney.
If you have been a victim of medical malpractice, call the legal team at Newsome Melton today. We can help you pursue the fair compensation you deserve. For a free case evaluation, call 1-855-MED-ASKS.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions
- What Is Meant by “a Breach of the Standard of Care” in a Medical Malpractice Case?
- What Do I Need to Do Before I Call a Medical Malpractice Lawyer and Open a Claim?
- Do Most Medical Malpractice Cases Go to Trial?
- Can a Medical Malpractice Case Be Reopened After It Has Settled?
- Can I Sue a Doctor for Medical Malpractice That Prescribed the Wrong Medication?