When we find ourselves sick, injured, or in desperate need of medical assistance, we turn to our trusted medical professionals. It’s assumed that the nurses, doctors, surgeons, and specialists we see will always deliver the care and assistance we need, when we need it. These professionals have many years of rigorous education and experience behind them, and that’s why we trust them.
What happens when our trusted medical professionals fail us? What if the negligence of our healthcare professionals causes injury or even death? Unfortunately, this is a reality for many Americans, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better.
A 2016 study conducted by researchers at the world-renowned Johns Hopkins University revealed some troubling statistics:
More than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical errors
Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. — surpassing respiratory disease
More than 250,000 deaths per year. That’s over 9% of all deaths each year in the United States. Given the silence in the press about these deaths, you might call it a “silent epidemic.” There is no doubt that this is a serious issue, and it’s unacceptable that so many die each year to avoidable errors.
What is Medical Malpractice?
We know that it’s a problem, but what exactly is medical malpractice? How do you know if you have a case against your negligent medical professional?
Medical malpractice, or medical negligence as it’s often referred to, typically occurs when a healthcare professional causes injury or death as a result of a failure to uphold basic standards of care. This can include a negligent act on the medical professional’s part, or failure to provide reasonable and appropriate medical care.
Think of it this way: If you’d seen a different healthcare provider with a similar level of education and experience, would they have acted in the same way? Would the injury, or even death, have occurred if the healthcare you received met the acceptable standards of the general medical community?
A successful medical malpractice case must prove that the injury or death was a direct result of negligence on your medical provider’s part.
Types of Medical Malpractice
There are a multitude of ways a healthcare provider can commit medical negligence. Most cases of medical malpractice, however, fall under a few general categories:
- Incorrect or Delayed Diagnosis
- Pregnancy or Birth Injuries
- Error in Prescribing or Administering Medication
- Improper or Incorrect Surgery
While breaking the types of negligence down into general categories can be helpful, it’s not exhaustive. Most cases may fall under these umbrellas, but many do not. If you have questions about healthcare you’ve received, we recommend you contact an experienced attorney to walk you through the process.
Incorrect or Delayed Diagnosis
Studies have revealed that misdiagnosis, or an incorrect diagnosis, is the most common cause of medical error. Disease or illness can be very complex, and our bodies react in a unique way. You may not be displaying the textbook symptoms of your illness, which can result in a misdiagnosis.
Given their experience and education, should your doctor have known what you were suffering from? Misdiagnoses can be life-threatening, and they may cause your doctor to waste precious time treating an issue that you don’t have.
Pregnancy or Birth Injuries
With all of our advancements in knowledge and technology, pregnancy and birth are still incredibly complex. There are many things that can go wrong, and disaster can occur in an instant.
These are some of the most complicated and devastating issues, as negligence can put both the mother and her child at risk.
We’ve made great strides in making pregnancy and childbirth as simple and safe as possible, but mistakes happen. Issues with childbirth or pregnancy do no automatically imply medical negligence. Medical malpractice occurs only when the injury or death happened as a direct result of the negligence.
Error in Prescribing or Administering Medication
Unfortunately, negligence involving medication is all too common. There is a whole chain of medical professionals that are involved any time medication is prescribed. Your prescription will run through doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and assistants before making it to your medicine cabinet.
The slightest mistake anywhere in the chain can have disastrous consequences. A single typo or decimal mistake can cause serious injury or even death. It’s easy to see how negligence could be a massive, life-altering problem with prescriptions.
Improper or Incorrect Surgery
Surgery is an incredibly complex operation. As with medication, you aren’t relying on one person to get it right. Errors can occur from surgeons, anesthesiologists, or surgical assistants. Some mistakes are on the smaller end, like controlling bleeding. Some mistakes, on the other hand, are of a massive scale.
It might surprise you to learn that surgeons have been documented performing surgery on the wrong body part, and even on the wrong patient in extreme cases.
Anesthesia also has plenty of potential for error. There are many different types of anesthetics, different people react differently to anesthesia. There are also complex equations that need to be taken into account to ensure the proper dosing.
What Causes Medical Malpractice?
There are many different factors that can lead to medical malpractice or negligence. Here are three common factors that can lead to error:
- The recent rise of HMOs
- The long hours medical professionals commonly work
- A shortage of trained nurses
HMOs, or Health Maintenance Organizations
In recent years, HMOs have risen dramatically in prevalence. An HMO is a type of health insurance plan. In a typical health maintenance organization, you are limited to treatment from doctors who work with or are contracted by the organization.
There are many rules and regulation that govern care from an HMO. Except in the most extreme cases, out-of-network care isn’t covered. Many also require you to live or work within a specific area that is covered by the HMO.
Patients forced to operate within an HMO may not be referred to the appropriate specialists. If they are referred to the right specialist, it may be after the illness or injury has become difficult to treat.
Long Hours and Extended Shifts
Another major cause of medical negligence is the difficult schedules that healthcare providers are often forced to work, especially interns and junior level professionals.
Whether it’s in the medical field or on the roads, we’ve seen time and time again just how deadly sleep deprivation can be.
A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information revealed that 87% of physicians working on-call shifts slept for only 5 hours or less. Medical professionals hold some of the most important jobs in our society, and yet they aren’t getting even the bare minimum amount of sleep required to function at a high level. That’s how injury and negligence occurs.
Trained Nurse Shortage
We’re headed toward a serious nurse shortage in our country. Today, people are living longer than ever before. As our population ages, so does the need for medical assistance. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, more and more nurses are needed to properly staff our nation’s medical industry.
Without a proper staff of trained nurses, accidents are inevitable. Doctors only have so much time for each patient, and our resources are being stretched as nurses have to cover more and more patients. Without a proper employee roster, we’re headed for more and more medical errors.
Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
Now that we’ve cleared up just what medical malpractice is, what the common types are, and what causes it, it’s time to ask the real questions. Do you have a medical malpractice case?
A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University revealed that more than 9% of all deaths per year in the United States are due to medical errors.
In order for a medical malpractice case to be won, you must prove that injury or death was caused as a direct result of negligence, or a negligent act, from your medical professional. You must have had an existing doctor-patient relationship and prove there was a violation of the medical duty of care expected by a healthcare professional.
This is only the beginning to a medical negligence case. Many states also have strict statutes of limitation on when a medical malpractice claim must be brought. It’s a complicated legal process that can be very difficult to navigate alone.
Think You May Have a Medical Malpractice Case? We’re Here to Help!
For that reason, we recommend you seek out the guidance of a skilled attorney with experience in medical malpractice as soon as possible. Trusted legal counsel will help you navigate through the complicated legal process and ensure that you receive the assistance and compensation that you deserve.
At the Brooks Law Group, we offer free, no obligation case reviews. If you believe you or a loved one was a victim result of medical negligence, our attorneys would be happy to sit down with you to discuss the details of your case.
You can call our offices at any time of day for your free case review. If our attorneys are unavailable, a registered agent will take your information and one of our skilled attorneys will reach out to discuss your case promptly.
For all of your injury and medical malpractice needs, call us at 1-800-LAW-3030. You can also fill out an online case evaluation form, located in the pop-up to your left. Don’t wait; get the justice you deserve today!