Medical technology today is advanced, and it is explicitly designed to reduce the number of errors in the industry. Unfortunately, medical errors are still prevalent, despite technological advancements. Furthermore, medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, indicating that the problem is widespread and in need of control.
One Johns Hopkins study found that over 250,000 people die annually from medical errors, and in some cases, they estimate the numbers could be as high as 440,000. Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death, trailing heart disease and cancer.
While heart disease and cancer are not always preventable, medical errors certainly are. Patients are at high-risk for these devastating errors and fatalities, and the causes of medical mistakes increasing are only getting worse rather than better. Physicians’ offices are understaffed and the physicians are overscheduled. And when they rush through patient care, serious errors occur.
Patients have options for recovery after suffering from malpractice, including filing a malpractice lawsuit against the physician, hospital, or another healthcare professional that injures them or causes death to a loved one.
Whether you are a patient or concerned family member, knowing the most common causes of these medical errors could save a life. When patients are more proactive and aware, they can ensure they receive the best standard of care – even when their physician is too busy.
Top 5 Reasons for Malpractice Lawsuits in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland
Malpractice is a form of negligence conducted by a healthcare professional. While physicians are the most commonly named defendants, other healthcare professionals can cause these injuries, including nurses, assistants, aids, pharmacy staff, radiologists, surgeons, pharmaceutical companies, and administrators.
While the reasons for malpractice lawsuits are extensive, the five most common types of suits seen include:
1. Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
One of the most common reasons for a medical malpractice lawsuit is a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. While sounding similar, each has unique differences. A misdiagnosis occurs when a physician blatantly misdiagnoses a patient. That patient might never know the true diagnosis, or they could receive treatment for the wrong condition. Later, the right diagnosis is made by a new physician – but often it is too late.
An example would be a patient diagnosed with gastritis. They are treated with medications, and the physician continues to prescribe those medications, even though the patient complains they have not improved and symptoms are worsening. The patient seeks a second opinion from a doctor who diagnoses them with stomach cancer. However, the stomach cancer has spread and now is too advanced for treatment.
A delayed diagnosis occurs when the physician eventually reaches the right diagnosis, but not in a reasonable time. They may put off ordering tests for the proper diagnosis while the patient suffers in agony. Another time could be where a patient visits the emergency room with chest pain, and they are told it is heartburn. While they wait, their symptoms worsen and, eventually, they suffer a massive heart attack. Had they received the proper treatment when they arrived, they would not have suffered the same complications.
The fatality rate in childbirth, considering the U.S. is a medically advanced country, is high. In fact, some third world countries have better rates than the U.S. One study found that 700 mothers die in childbirth each year in the U.S. This rate is higher than countries like Germany, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
The study also found that half of the deaths were preventable, and most were due to a relaxed safety protocol in hospitals, busy doctors, and failures to diagnose.
Childbirth injuries and deaths are tragic. Even if there is no injury or death to the mother, a child born and suffering serious injuries may have long-term disabilities as a result – such as a congenital disability. Negligence can start during prenatal care or happen during the delivery itself.
Some common childbirth injury claims include:
- Failure to perform a timely C-section
- Failure to diagnose or detect congenital disabilities
- Failure to diagnose or treat a disease that is contagious to the fetus
- Neglecting medical conditions of the mother that can affect the child
- Failure to use proper delivery procedures, resulting in physical injury to the child
Sadly, America is a country heavily reliant on prescription medications. Therefore, it is no surprise that another common cause of malpractice lawsuits in this country is due to medication errors. These errors can include:
- Prescribing the wrong medication or wrong dosage
- Dispensing the wrong medication
- Dispensing medication at the wrong concentration
- Prescribing medications with dangerous interactions
- Prescribing medications the patient is allergic to
- Giving inadequate instructions for how to take the medication
Medication errors happen at the physician and pharmacy level. They might occur when the physician writes the prescription, while other times the pharmacy may dispense or mix the wrong medications for the patient. Sometimes, they happen in the hospital when staff administers medications intravenously.
Surgical errors are common, despite regulations. Most are not life-threatening, but they are still debilitating and dangerous. Common reasons for surgical error claims include operating on the wrong side of the body, operating on the wrong patient, post-operative infections, bleeding, anesthesia errors, and brain damage during sedation.
Anesthesia is common in surgery as well as with outpatient procedures. For example, a person’s annual colonoscopy requires anesthesia. Dental work also may use sedation.
Anesthesia errors can be devastating, especially when a proper medical history is not taken or the patient is not properly monitored. Patients can suffer from drug interactions, brain damage from a lack of oxygen, organ failure, heart attacks, and even allergic reactions.
Finding an Advocate for Medical Malpractice
After an injury from a medical provider, victims should speak with an advocate who has experience handling these types of cases. Medical malpractice might be familiar, but navigating the laws is not.
It is a highly complicated area of the law, and a patient is going against big insurance companies and sometimes hospitals with teams of attorneys. Therefore, they need a law firm ready to fight for their right to compensation.
Speak with an advocate from Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, LLP, now. Schedule a free case evaluation at one of our three locations or contact us online with your questions.