Unfortunately, medical malpractice cases occur very frequently.
Considering how many mistakes occur in the medical setting, it’s amazing there aren’t more medical malpractice cases. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that medical errors cause more than 250,000 deaths in the United States each year. This makes health care facilities bigger killers of Americans than anything else, except cancer and heart disease. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are responsible for killing more American each year than car accidents, guns and terrorists…combined.
Put another way, 10 percent of all deaths in the United States are due to medical mistakes. The following is a list of some of the more common types of medical errors, especially those that lead to medical malpractice lawsuits.
#1: Failed Diagnosis
A failed diagnosis (or misdiagnosis) is one of the leading causes of medical malpractice cases. Misdiagnosis can occur when the doctor fails to notice the threatening health condition in a patient or mistakes a harmful condition for a one that is not harmful. A failed diagnosis is common with a variety of health problems such as cancer, pulmonary embolism, infection and heart attacks.
A failed diagnosis can occur for a variety of reasons. First, it can be because the patient does not present textbooks symptoms. Second, the doctor may feel pressure to avoid “unnecessary” testing or medical procedures.
For example, let’s say you have a patient that presents symptoms that suggest they may have pneumonia. But it’s cold and flu season and the doctor wants to avoid an unnecessary x-ray when all the patient could have is a bad cold. So instead of calling for an x-ray, the doctor sends the patient home with the instructions to drink plenty of fluids and get some rest.
It turns out the patient had pneumonia and dies from it because they didn’t get antibiotics fast enough. The doctor didn’t mean for this to happen. The doctor avoided that x-ray because their boss was under pressure from the insurance company to not “overtreat” patients. Unfortunately, this doctor overcorrected and failed to provide enough treatment.
Third, the doctor can be negligent because he or she isn’t paying attention to the patient or doesn’t properly read the patient medical records.
#2: Mistakes with Medications
Medication mistakes are common because they’re extremely easy to make. Misreading the handwriting on a medical chart, confusing decimal points when dosing (and giving 10mg instead of 1.0mg, for instance) and confusing when the patient last received a dose (resulting in a double dose or a skipped dose) can cause severe problems and easily result in medical malpractice.
#3: Defective Medical Device
The human body is a fantastic and complicated machine. And as great as our medical knowledge is, we only know a small fraction of exactly how the body works. You know how we cringe and gasp when we read or hear about medical treatments from hundreds of years ago involving bloodletting or cutting holes in the skull to let out evil spirits? A few hundred years from now, you can almost guarantee that people will look back at some of today’s treatments with the same level of disgust and surprise.
Because we know so little, our attempts to create artificial replacements for the human body don’t always work. For example, using special metal alloys for hip replacements is leading to a lot of patients suffering from metallosis or metal poisoning. This occurs when tiny bits of metal rub off and go into the surrounding tissues and bloodstream. The human hip is a simple ball and socket joint, yet medical device designers have so much trouble replicating it artificially. This difficulty often leads to defective medical devices.
#4: Mistake During Surgery
Surgery is a risky and complex procedure where a variety of things can go wrong. People sometimes come out of an operation with a medical tool or sponge still inside them. Or maybe they have the wrong leg or arm amputated. Or an anesthesiologist makes a mistake with the patient’s reaction to a particular type of anesthesia. And almost all of these mistakes are completely preventable. For example, some doctors place an “x” on the limb that they will remove. But other doctors place an “x” on the limb that will stay and does not receive an amputation. It’s easy to see how there can be confusion. It’s not that hard to create a standard protocol for amputations when training doctors, but for whatever reason, many doctors don’t receive this in their education.
#5: Injuries During Childbirth
Childbirth-related injuries are unfortunate and should be rare, but they’re not. So many things can go wrong during seemingly routine childbirth. And to complicate matters, doctors and nurses have to worry not just about the mother, but the unborn or recently born child as well.
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