Medical malpractice refers to when a medical professional or organization violates a patient’s standard of care, leading to injury and other damages. Common mistakes that lead to medical malpractice include misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, medication errors, surgical mistakes, anesthesia mistakes, and childbirth injuries.
Keep in mind, medical malpractice involves more than a medical professional or organization making a mistake. As stated above, the error must directly lead to demonstrable harm and resulting damages.
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Misdiagnosis is when a medical professional attributes a patient’s symptoms to the wrong condition. In contrast, delayed diagnosis refers to when a medical professional cannot diagnose a patient’s condition for an unreasonable amount of time. Both of these can lead to a patient suffering prolonged or worsened symptoms and, in the most extreme cases, dying.
A medical professional’s actions are compared to someone in the same field, with comparable skills and knowledge to determine whether misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis occurred. For example, the court would compare a family medicine doctor to another family medicine practitioner.
Medical malpractice suits ask how a similar professional would act under the same circumstances. If another professional says they would have acted differently, it is possible that the primary professional (the defendant) violated their patient’s (the plaintiff’s) standard of care.
Medication errors include professionals prescribing the wrong medication and prescribing the wrong dosage of the correct medication. Medical errors also encompass administering medication to the wrong patient or incorrectly administering medicine within a medical organization.
Because medication involves multiple people— doctors, nurses, and pharmaceutical company or drug store personnel— there is an increased margin for error.
A hospital or other medical organization can further amplify this margin if equipment is involved. For example, a machine may administer too much or too little medicine if the battery dies or the device otherwise malfunctions.
Surgical or Anesthesia Mistakes
Surgical mistakes can happen in the operating room or during a patient’s post-operative recovery. Like medication errors, surgical errors may be committed by the primary doctor or surgeon, a nurse, or another hospital staff member.
Common mistakes in the operating room include a surgeon damaging internal organs, operating on the wrong body part, or leaving instruments or towels in the patient’s body. Post-operative mistakes include failing to correctly care for a patient after surgery, which can lead to further medical complications or infections.
Anesthesia errors are less common than surgical mistakes but far more dangerous because they can lead to brain damage, other permanent injuries, or death. These errors may occur before the surgery if the anesthesiologist fails to review a patient’s medical history or to inform the patient of relevant preoperative instructions, or during the surgery itself if the anesthesiologist administers the incorrect amount of anesthesia.
Childbirth injuries can result from negligence either before or during the actual childbirth. An example of negligence before birth would be the failure to identify an ectopic pregnancy, whereas negligence during the birth would include failing to identify signs of fetal distress.
Medical malpractice related to childbirth injuries can cause brain injuries, broken bones, nerve damage, or other types of fetal injury. However, it can be difficult to directly link these to medical malpractice because they can also result from congenital conditions or environmental factors.
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