The field of neurology is disproportionately prone to medical malpractice claims. In fact, more than half of all neurologists will find themselves the target of a malpractice claim at least once over the course of a 30-year career. Furthermore, the average sum paid out for neurological malpractice claims was over $300,000 in 2010, making it the highest among all medical specialties. Some of the unique characteristics of the field which lead to greater risks of these suits are the following:
- Tremendous recent growth of neurodiagnostic tests
- Booming numbers of neurological drugs
- More invasive procedures that raise the standard of care
- Diverse legal issues that extend past traditional medicine
- Liability extending past the doctor-patient relationship to include other third-party claimants
- Intrinsic difficulty in treating neurological disorders
Characteristics of Neurological Malpractice
An individual suffering from a brain injury might appear confused and unsure about approaching the future. These life-altering injuries can become more complicated if the damage to the brain is due to the negligence of a physician. Due to the looming legal repercussions and subsequent medical expenses, victims of neurological malpractice may feel tremendously vulnerable and uncertain about how to live a normal life again. Furthermore, brain injuries can have a wide array of impacts on a patient’s life and may be localized or involve large areas of the brain. Some of these injuries can appear immediately after the negligence by a doctor, while others may take weeks to appear.
Symptoms of a Brain Injury
The symptoms of a brain injury can vary greatly. However, some of the more common symptoms include the following:
- Memory Loss
Neurologists and neurosurgeons are physicians that focus on preventing, diagnosing, and treating nervous system disorders, illnesses, and injuries. These specialists treat conditions associated with the brain, spinal cord, and even the nerves. Their work includes the determination of patient muscle strength, movement, reflexes, balance, feeling, cognition, and memory. When dealing with such an essential aspect of human physiology, doctors who misdiagnose neurological issues, or fail to carry out their practice with the expected skill and care are at risk for committing medical malpractice.
A brain injury can be attributable to a doctor’s negligence in a number of ways. It can be caused by trauma from an instrument or any other type of negligence, such as being administered the wrong medication. However, a major culprit in neurological negligence is diagnostic error. Poorly trained, inexperienced, or hurried neurologists can easily compromise the health of patients by failing to properly execute their examinations. Other causes of neurological malpractice include the following:
- Improper medical conduct
- Improper procedure performance
- Failure to monitor a case
- Performance of procedures when not indicated
- Performance delays
- Failure to recognize treatment complications
- Failure to instruct patient
- Delay in referral
Neurological Malpractice Results
Any of these negligent actions can lead to severe neurological injuries and malpractice. Some of the most common results of neurological malpractice include the following conditions and injuries:
- Cerebral palsy
- Medication reactions
- Forceps injury
- Instruments remaining in brain
- Surgical complications
- Lumbar puncture
Avoiding Neurological Malpractice
In order to avoid these malpractice claims and provide patients with the standard of care they deserve, experienced neurologists make several practice recommendations. First, doctors need to ensure patient-physician communication remains open and honest, as this is cited as the predominant cause of neurological malpractice.
Furthermore, neurologists should welcome and promote more second opinions, as well as more imaging scans, both of which will help alleviate another major malpractice cause-diagnostic error. Informed consent issues also need to be resolved and proper documentation needs to take priority in the practice, particularly in a field so specialized and technical.
Finally, patient records need to be accurate, complete, clear, legible, timely, and free of alteration. If patient records do not adhere to these standards, neurologists risk subjecting patients to devastating medical malpractice injuries.