Becoming the victim of your doctor’s negligence is painful and devastating, both physically and financially. Unfortunately, serious errors are not uncommon. Each year, upward of 20,000 patients file lawsuits against their doctors. At any given moment, one in 14 American doctors faces a medical malpractice lawsuit from a patient.
Malpractice lawsuits generally stem from one of a handful of reasons. A recent studyof cases from around the world by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical School and Trinity College Dublin identified the main causes for malpractice suits. Misdiagnosis and medication errors were the most common causes, but several other reasons top the list.
A large number of common ailments share signs and symptoms with other, more serious diseases. Therefore, it is incumbent upon health care providers to perform due diligence and take every precaution to ensure a correct diagnosis, as an incorrect diagnosis leads to inappropriate, and potentially harmful, treatment. Among the most common misdiagnoses are those related to heart attacks and cancer; in most cases, the physician failed to diagnose a more serious ailment. Other common misdiagnoses include fractures, ectopic pregnancies and appendicitis.
Few medications available today come without some risk of side effects. When a doctor prescribes a medication, however, the patient trusts that he or she understands the risks, and will only prescribe drugs that are appropriate for the patient’s condition and will not cause undue harm. Failing to do so sets the stage for a malpractice suit. Prescribing a drug known to cause birth defects to a pregnant patient, for example, is malpractice if it causes harm to the unborn child.
Surgical errors are one of the leading causes of malpractice claims. Operating on the incorrect part of the body, leaving surgical instruments inside the body post-surgery and anesthesia errors are among the causes for malpractice suits that have been successfully tried in recent years. It should be noted that an unsuccessful or ineffective surgery does not necessarily equate malpractice, especially when the patient had to provide informed consent after learning the benefits and drawbacks of the procedure and understood that the surgery may not be effective.
Failure to Treat
Failure to treat is sometimes confused with misdiagnosis, but in reality they are quite different. This type of case involves a provider who made a correct diagnosis, but did not adequately treat the illness or injury in the standard of care. Often a result of overworked, rushed doctors and clerical errors, failure to treat may mean discharging a patient too soon, developing a treatment plan that is too conservative for the condition or failing to provide follow-up treatment.
Failure to Obtain Informed Consent
Before beginning any treatment plan, it is incumbent upon the physician to inform the patient of the potential benefits and risks associated with the treatment. The doctor must ensure that the patient understands everything and gain his or her consent. If the physician fails to properly inform the patient of potential risks, and the patient suffers harm as a result, then a malpractice suit is in order.
If you feel that you have been the victim of medical malpractice, regardless of the cause, your best course of action is to contact an experienced attorney. Few cases are 100-percent, clear-cut malpractice; you will need help navigating the complexities of the law and proving your case.