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What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

Wagner Reese

When we visit the doctor’s office or the hospital, we expect our medical practitioners to provide us with a high standard of care. When this does not happen—whether through prescription errors, surgery errors, or something else—it’s considered medical malpractice.

Learn more about medical malpractice, its potential consequences, and how to protect your rights if it happens to you.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical practitioner causes harm to a patient by failing to provide them with an acceptable standard of care.

Medical malpractice can take many different forms, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Medication errors
  • Surgery errors
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed treatment
  • Lack of informed consent
  • Medical record mistakes
  • EMT and ER mistakes
  • Failure to diagnose breast cancer
  • Birth injuries
  • Fatal medical mistakes leading to wrongful death

It’s important to keep in mind that medical malpractice can occur during any point in your medical journey—from diagnosis (or lack thereof) to treatment. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to understand the various errors that may happen before, during, and after your treatment so you know whether you are eligible to recover compensation from a negligent provider.

Unfortunately, medical malpractice is startlingly common in the United States. According to the Diederich Healthcare 2015 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis, insurance companies paid out nearly $4 million to victims of medical malpractice in 2014. Of these claims, permanent injuries constituted 18%, major permanent injuries constituted 17%, and life-long care injuries constituted 13%.

Medical malpractice happens often due to the following reasons:

  • Miscommunication between doctor and patient
  • Lack of resources available to the doctor or nurse
  • Inexperience on the part of the doctor or nurse
  • Fatigue on the part of the doctor or nurse
  • Out-of-date health records kept on file
  • Intentional actions on the part of the doctor or nurse

Common Types of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice can have devastating consequences for patients. Everything from anesthesia errors to surgery errors to a misdiagnosis can cause serious, long-term injuries.

We discuss some of the most common forms of medical malpractice below.

Anesthesia Errors

Most people have had some form of anesthesia administered to them at some point in their lives. In fact, anesthesia is used in nearly all surgeries. But sadly, for every one million patients who undergo surgery, seven people die as a result of anesthesia errors.

This may happen due to one of the following mistakes by medical practitioners:

  • Dosage errors. This happens when the patient received too little or too much anesthesia, or the wrong type of anesthesia.
  • Intubation mistakes. If patients are improperly intubated during their procedure, they may not be able to breathe properly.
  • Delayed administration. If anesthesia administration is delayed, the patient could experience severe pain and serious injury.
  • Failure to respond to complications. If a patient has a negative response to anesthesia and the medical practitioner does not respond appropriately, the patient may be harmed as a result.
  • Improper patient monitoring. Leaving the patient alone or not monitoring them adequately after the administration of anesthesia could have serious consequences for the patient.
  • Failure to monitor oxygen levels. Failure to monitor the pulse oximeter that measures a patient’s oxygen levels while under anesthesia is a form of medical malpractice.
  • Communication errors. If a medical practitioner fails to communicate to the patient about possible side effects or proper after-care procedures, it may be considered medical malpractice.

Failure to Diagnose

An accurate and timely diagnosis helps ensure the patient begins the treatment they need as soon as possible. When a medical practitioner provides an incorrect diagnosis to a patient, or fails to diagnose them altogether, the patient may have a delayed treatment that can affect their recovery.

There are several reasons a medical practitioner may fail to diagnose a patient correctly, including the following:

  • Delayed referral of a patient to a specialist
  • Misinterpretation of test results
  • Failing to act upon a patient’s complaints appropriately
  • Conducting a medical exam incorrectly
  • Misdiagnosing a tumor as benign
  • Not ordering tests when needed
  • Failing to provide adequate follow-up care

Such diagnosis errors can have serious consequences for patients, including the following:

  • Cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Meningitis
  • Stroke
  • Paralysis
  • Wrongful death

Medication Errors

Medications are an important component of our treatment and recovery. When we’re prescribed the wrong type or amount of medication, however, we may experience serious consequences.

Medication errors may occur when a medical practitioner is not fully versed on the other medications a patient is taking that may interfere with the medication they intend to prescribe. Additionally, medication errors may happen when doctors are in a rush and not fully thinking through the potentially dangerous interactions between two drugs.

Medical Malpractice and Birth Injuries

Another common result of medical malpractice is a birth injury. Birth injuries may happen during a woman’s pregnancy or during her labor and delivery. Most birth injuries are preventable, and happen due to a medical practitioner’s failure to prescribe the correct treatment for a pregnant woman or to respond to events in the delivery room appropriately.

Some common types of birth injuries caused by medical malpractice may include the following:

  • Anoxia, hypoxia, and other forms of oxygen deprivation
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Erb’s palsy
  • Brachial plexus injuries that may affect an infant’s shoulders, arms, and hands
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Broken bones due to vacuum extraction or forceps injuries

Additionally, pregnant women may experience the following birth injuries as a result of medical malpractice:

  • Uterine rupture
  • Prolapsed uterus
  • Perineal tears
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Infection
  • Preeclampsia/eclampsia

How Does a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Work?

If you or someone you love has suffered as a result of medical malpractice, it’s important to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions. After all, you or a loved one may now be left with life-long injuries and expensive medical treatment; you should not have to foot that bill due to another’s failure to act appropriately.

In order to prove medical malpractice in a lawsuit, you and an experienced medical malpractice attorney will need to prove what’s known as the “four D’s of medical malpractice.” The four D’s include the following:

  • Duty: The medical practitioner owed you a duty of care that was consistent and acceptable by medical standards.
  • Dereliction: The medical practitioner failed in their duty of care.
  • Damages: You suffered an injury.
  • Direct cause: The medical practitioner’s failure of their duty of care directly led to your injury.

Ultimately, what a medical malpractice case is trying to prove is that negligence on the part of a medical practitioner directly caused an injury to a patient.

If you and your medical malpractice attorney can prove the four D’s, you may be able to collect damages through your case. It’s important to keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases.

In the state of Indiana, the statute of limitations for a medical injury is two years from when the act of negligence occurred. So, you must act quickly and contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible.

Suffered an Injury Due to Medical Malpractice? We’re Here to Help

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to a medical practitioner’s negligence, our team at Wagner Reese is here to help. Our Indianapolis attorneys specialize in this area of law, and we have recovered millions for people just like you.

Contact us today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation.


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