What is Medical Malpractice?

medical malpractice operating roomAs a patient, you have the right to expect physicians, other medical professionals and health care facilities to provide a certain medical standard of care. Medical malpractice—sometimes referred to as medical negligence—can occur when a violation of that standard results in an injury that was caused by negligence and that has significant damages associated with it. At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., our expert medical malpractice lawyers can help determine if you have a case, accurately calculate damages, and work to ensure your or your loved one’s rights are protected. Read on to learn more about this complex area of personal injury law.

Misdiagnose or Failure to Diagnose

If you have a medical condition that’s harmful, but you were either incorrectly diagnosed or the diagnosis was significantly delayed, this may reach the standard of medical malpractice. Ways in which this can happen include when a medical professional does not appropriately investigate symptoms, or fails to screen for a medical issue that another doctor with similar training and experience would do. Other forms include when lab tests are misinterpreted or when a patient is not appropriately referred to a specialist for additional testing or care.

Operating Room/Surgical Errors

There are multiple ways in which medical malpractice can take place in the operating room, ranging from sterilization techniques not being properly followed to other patient prep issues. It can also include the wrong procedure being performed on a patient or the patient not being securely placed in a gurney.

Improper surgical care can lead to blood clots and cauterization burns, post-op infection and much more. It can worsen current medical conditions, create new ones—and, in the most serious cases, lead to death. In some cases, patients may not even be aware that their post-surgical problems are a result of medical malpractice.

Birth-Related Injuries

When birth injuries occur, a time that should have been joyful could, instead, be the exact opposite. Not all birth injuries are because of malpractice; ones that are typically fall into one of two categories:

  • When prenatal care is not appropriately given, including prescribing medicines given that can harm the fetus
  • When injuries occur because the doctor didn’t appropriately assess a situation or respond appropriately

This type of medical malpractice can occur through improper assessment of a baby’s well-being in the womb; the improper use of forceps or other medical devices; a failure to perform a cesarean section, and more.

Failure to Follow Procedures

Medical malpractice may occur when a doctor or other medical service professional breaches required standards of care by not following appropriate procedures. This can cover a broad range of missteps, including not having another doctor on call to cover patients, not following up with necessary tests, prematurely discharging someone from the hospital and/or not providing appropriate follow-up instructions, inappropriate post-surgical care and more.

Defective Medical Devices

Examples of defective medical devices include:

  • Stryker Rejuvenate hip implants: This is a modular, non-metal hip implant used for people with degenerative joint conditions. The function of this hip implant is to boost mobility and relieve pain, but failed components can corrode and this can lead to multiple conditions: premature device failure, along with metallosis, elevated cobalt levels, pseudo-tumor formation, and osteolysis.
  • Metal-on-metal hip implants and/or knee implants: Multiple manufacturers have created metal-on-metal joint implants without warning of possible dangers. These manufacturers include DePuy, Zimmer, Stryker, Wright Medical and others, with dangers including premature failure, plus a breakdown of metallic surfaces, abnormal wear, and elevated chromium in the blood causing metallosis and pseudotumor formations.

Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse

Signs of nursing home neglect or abuse can include unsanitary living conditions, failure to provide personal hygiene services, unanswered calls for help, concerns about adequate nutrition, and an increasing numbers of injuries, often unexplained. Nursing homes are required, through the passage of the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, to provide residents with the “highest practicable” degrees of care that’s necessary to achieve and maintain the well-being of residents, including their physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being. This act also codified nursing home patient rights, including the right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect, among others.

Medication or Pharmacy Errors

Medical malpractice related to medications can originate with doctors or nurses, hospitals or pharmacies, and even the manufacturer of the medication. Ways in which errors can rise to the level of malpractice include prescribing a medication that is known to trigger a person’s allergies or one known to negatively interact with other medications being prescribed for or otherwise taken by the patient. Failing to share common side effects is another potential area, as is an administration of the wrong medication or the wrong amount or when medications are mislabelled.

Ineffective or Delayed Treatments

Ineffective or delayed treatments can be considered malpractice if a medical service professional does not use knowledge and skills that a similar doctor under these conditions would use. If, for example, you tell your doctor that your chest burns and you can’t comfortably breathe, and you get diagnosed with a cold that is really a serious case of pneumonia, that may fit within the medical malpractice standards. If the standards of care are not effectively met and you’re harmed by the delayed treatment, this is a situation that can be further explored by a qualified attorney.

Emergency Room Malpractice

An emergency room, by its very nature, is often filled with people who are experiencing significant illness or injury, typically with a sudden onset. Required standards of care in an emergency room are often not the same as they may be in your primary care physician’s office, but medical malpractice can still occur when emergency care provided is substandard.

Misdiagnoses can occur when an emergency room doctor does not collect enough information, carefully listen to the patient or take enough time to properly present a diagnosis. Perhaps necessary tests were not ordered, or they were given but inaccurately interpreted. Medications can be inappropriately prescribed, patients can be discharged too early and so forth.

Failure to Properly Monitor the Patient

Improper monitoring can lead to medical malpractice situations during and after surgery. Standards of care require that patients are carefully monitored when they are under anesthesia as well as when they are awakening from its use; that they are appropriately monitored for post-surgical infections; discharged only when ready; and that they receive appropriate follow up care. As other examples, doctors are required to appropriately monitor a child and mother during and after childbirth; when patients are on prescription medications; when follow up tests are indicated; and more.

Healthcare Facility or Hospital Errors

Errors range from diagnostic ones to improper medications being given. Hospitals are required to inform patients of all risks when providing treatment, including with medications given and procedures undertaken. Patients must give consent before surgery; when hospitals don’t obtain it, this can form the basis of an informed consent lawsuit. Errors can occur when anesthetic is being given, when a child is being born, and when a patient is in the emergency room or being transported.

Negligence Abandonment of the Patient

When a doctor-patient relationship exists, and the doctor abandons the care of the patient when he or she needs medical care without the patient being able to find a replacement physician—and the patient suffers as a result—this can form the basis of negligent patient abandonment. This is a potentially serious, but over overlooked, form of medical malpractice.

When You Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

In most cases, medical providers do good work and exercise reasonable care. Sometimes, though, mistakes are made and damages are suffered. In the latter case, one or more entities may be liable for damages.

Because it’s highly unlikely that healthcare providers will simply admit to a breach of duty caused by negligence, a medical malpractice attorney is typically needed for you or a loved one to receive compensation. Don’t delay in seeking legal help, as there are specific timelines in which you can pursue remedies for medical malpractice.

If you suspect medical malpractice, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation to determine the strength of your case. At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., we treat clients like family, and you’ll get to know everyone involved in your malpractice case. To get started, contact our experienced medical malpractice attorneys online or call 800-251-1111.

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