Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to provide the appropriate treatment or care to a patient, resulting in harm or injury. Each year, over 250,000 patients in the United States experience a negative outcome as a result of negligent medical care. Holding healthcare providers accountable for their actions to improve patient safety is critical.
Read on to learn more about the prevalence of medical malpractice, common medical errors, and what you can do if you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice refers to cases in which a healthcare provider fails to provide a patient with the expected level of care, resulting in harm. This can occur when the provider deviates from the accepted standard of care in treating the patient.
For instance, imagine a patient presents to a doctor with symptoms of a severe illness. Unfortunately, the doctor fails to diagnose the condition accurately, misinterprets a patient’s chest pain as indigestion, and prescribes antacids. However, the patient is suffering from a heart attack.
The consequences of medical malpractice can be devastating for patients and their families, often resulting in permanent injury or death.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice and How Often They Occur
Various types of medical malpractice may negatively impact patient care and treatment, resulting in injuries, complications, and even death. In the U.S., medical malpractice causes between 44,000 and 98,000 avoidable inpatient deaths annually. Healthcare providers may make the following medical errors:
- Medication Errors
Medication errors can occur at all phases of the medication management process, including prescription, transcription, at the dispensary, during administration, and while monitoring. Medication errors happen for various reasons, such as expired products, incorrect dosages, and pharmacist errors. 75% of medication errors are due to physicians multitasking while writing drug orders and prescriptions, and accidentally writing the wrong dose or frequency.
Medication errors account for around one-quarter of all healthcare errors, leading to serious consequences. In the United States, 7,000 to 9,000 patients die yearly due to medication errors, and countless others experience adverse reactions or complications.
- Misdiagnosis or Delayed Treatment
Diagnostic errors result from mistakes made during the diagnostic process that lead to a missed diagnosis, a misdiagnosis, or a delayed diagnosis. These errors result in the death or injury of 40,000 to 80,000 patients annually. Primary care solo practice is particularly vulnerable to diagnostic errors due to the high workload and limited ability to cross-reference with colleagues.
In the outpatient environment, it is estimated that 5% of adults are affected by diagnostic errors. Diagnostic errors account for 6 to 17% of adverse events in hospitals.
- Failure to Diagnose
Failure to diagnose can have serious consequences for patients who might not get the needed treatment. Studies have shown that false negative rates for missed diagnoses range from 2.2% for heart attack to 62.1% for spinal abscess. This means that many patients are not receiving an accurate diagnosis, which can lead to delays in treatment and potentially harm the patient.
- Surgical Errors
Surgical errors refer to preventable injuries that happen during surgery and are not expected to occur. For example, a surgeon may operate on the wrong body part, or a robotic surgery could result in accidental hemorrhage due to lacerations and tissue damage.
There are approximately 1 error in every 112,000 surgical procedures, although this estimate only includes procedures performed in operating rooms.
- Emergency Room Mistakes
The emergency room is a high-pressure environment where many decisions must be made quickly and accurately. Unfortunately, emergency room mistakes are common. A study found that human error by emergency room doctors, such as lack of knowledge or lapses in memory, accounted for almost all emergency room medical malpractice.
In the United States, out of 130 million ER visits per year, 5.7% of patients are misdiagnosed, with 2.0% experiencing adverse events. While this may not seem like a high number, 2.0% of 130 million is still 2.6 million people.
- Birth Injuries
Birth injuries due to trauma can be a serious issue for newborns, and account for an average of 6 to 8 injuries for every 100 live births. These can include temporary injuries like contusions and broken bones to severe injuries like brain damage and physical disability, and may be caused by healthcare providers using excessive force or failing to treat complications promptly.
- Anesthesia Errors
Many surgical procedures require anesthesia, but errors can result in serious patient harm. A major factor contributing to these anesthesia mistakes is ineffective communication among healthcare workers.
- Medical Record Mistakes
A study found that 1 in 5 patients who read their medical notes reported finding a mistake, and 40% perceived it as serious.
Patients reported various types of serious errors, such as mistakes in their diagnoses, medical history, medications, physical examination, and test results. They even spotted notes taken for the wrong patient. These errors can lead to adverse drug interactions, allergic reactions, and incorrect treatment options.
Compensation Options for Medical Malpractice Injuries
You may recover compensation for your medical bills and pain and suffering if you’ve been injured by medical malpractice. Wagner Reese’s medical malpractice attorneys will work with you to file your medical malpractice claim.
We begin by obtaining and reviewing all pertinent medical records to assess the merits of your potential claim. Our team also retains medical experts to review the records and help us understand what happened and the strength of your claim.
We then work with you to navigate the malpractice process and advocate for a fair settlement.
Contact an Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice errors can result from a range of serious medical mistakes that can cause serious injuries or even fatalities. Patients have the right to seek compensation if their healthcare provider has been negligent.
At Wagner Reese, our attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you pursue justice and hold medical providers liable for their actions. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.