Hospital errors are more common than you think—in fact, with 440,000 deaths attributed to mistakes by the medical facility, it’s the third-leading cause of death in the United States, as estimated by The Journal of Patient Safety. That figure doesn’t include the cases of errors that don’t result in death but drastically impact the life of the affected patient. Let’s take a deeper look at the most common types of medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice has one basic premise in common with any other field of personal injury law. The case must be built around negligence. That means that the standard of care provided by the medical professional must fall below what is considered an accepted community standard and the errors must have caused material harm to the patient.
What this means is that simply not getting a hoped-for result does not constitute negligence on the part of the medical provider. Even an admitted mistake must fall outside the bounds of what is considered a reasonable expectation. In short, medical professionals are not expected to rise above being human.
But doctors, nurses and staff are expected to exercise meticulous professionalism and the figures cited at the top don’t factor in cases where well-meaning people may decline to file a lawsuit on the belief that “these things happen.” True, sometimes they do. But not always and sometimes it’s best left to a jury to sort out it.
Medical malpractice is most likely to come into play around the following issues.
What happens if your doctor failed to identify that mass of cells as a tumor? If it had been caught right away, the tumor could have been treated with chemo or radiation. Instead, it metastasized. The error might have been fatal. At the very least, it’s drastically impacted the quality of life of the patient.
Whether or not the misdiagnosis qualified as medical malpractice will be influenced heavily by the testimony of expert witnesses. The procedures followed by the doctor will be examined, as well as their interpretative methods of information.
If you’re the plaintiff in such a case, don’t feel like the expert witness process is one where doctors simply cover for each other—you’ll be able to summon your own expert witnesses to make sure both sides are heard.
Surgery often involves very fine hand movements, which can create errors and some of this can have very serious consequences. Once again, expert witnesses will be influential in helping the jury decide whether it was negligence or standard human error.
This category also covers most of what the medical field calls the “never events,” which are things that should simply never happen. You may have read stories about a surgeon operating on the wrong body part or even the wrong patient entirely. This is a “never event” and does not require the plaintiff to bring in an expert witness.
Other errors can come in during the administration of anesthesia prior to surgery or during childbirth. From the perspective of medical staff, prescription errors can be a source of malpractice. The wrong use of a decimal point on a form can radically alter the dosage a patient gets, which can have life-changing consequences.