While doctors and hospitals are vital to our survival and well-being, the unfortunate truth is that negligence by medical providers does occur. According to an article by National Public Radio in late 2013, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services reported that as of 2010, the deaths of approximately 180,000 Medicare patients “in a given year” could be attributed to poor care at hospitals. The articles goes on to cite a September 2013 report from the Journal on Patient Safety indicating that anywhere between 210,000 to 440,000 hospital patients “suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death” from that visit to or stay in the hospital.
What Types of Malpractice Occur?
There are many different types of medical malpractice cases that occur across the country. For example, medication errors are a considerably significant contributor to the aforementioned statistics. This may occur in the actual prescription of a drug in which a doctor may prescribe the wrong dosage or even the wrong medication itself. For those patients treated at a hospital or medical facility, medical personnel (the doctor or the nurse) administer a prescription incorrectly in providing too much, too little, or the wrong type of medication. It is not out of the realm of possibility for medical personnel to mistakenly switch prescriptions or dosages between patients, as the rush of a busy day could lead to the switching of files or a hasty reading of incorrect records.
There are also mistakes made during surgical procedures. Although proceeding carefully, a surgeon may mistakenly operate on the wrong part of the body or the wrong organ. Surgeons may also accidentally swipe and cut open or puncture a part of the body, leading to significant damage. The more publicized incidents of surgical malpractice include forgetting to remove equipment or instruments from inside the patient’s body, and stitching up the patient with an instrument still inside that could cause serious, permanent, or even fatal damage. In opening or closing the area of the body that requires operation, negligence in keeping that area clean may lead to infection that could also result in death or require further painful and inconvenient surgery.
Additionally, in surgeries or procedures, there will more than likely be anesthetic administered. An anesthesiologist or the appropriate personnel must be aware of any potential negative reactions to the use of anesthesia for a specific patient. Unfortunately, such reactions do occur, and furthermore there could be complications as a result of a failure to administer the right amount of anesthesia, or not properly observing the patient’s vital signs throughout the procedure.
Another common source of malpractice is a failure to properly diagnose a patient’s condition. This occurs often, and can be in the form of a purely incorrect diagnosis, or a delay in forming the correct diagnosis.
This is of course not an exhaustive list, but examples of common malpractice scenarios. It is important to realize that simply because a procedure or treatment does not yield the hoped-for result, this does not mean that negligence occurred. The legal analysis will center on the standard of care involved to determine if the alleged negligent provider failed to meet the standard expected of another provider for that specific course of treatment. Nevertheless, patients must be aware of their rights in potential malpractice situations, and be cognizant of potential problems that could lead to malpractice.
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