Although the majority of people who seek medical care receive the appropriate treatment and experience no complications, medical malpractice continues to be a significant public health issue. The most common types of medical malpractice are errors in diagnosis, medication errors, surgical errors, and pregnancy or childbirth errors.
Errors in Diagnosis
Obtaining an accurate diagnosis for a patient isn't always an easy task. Many medical conditions can have symptoms that overlap or that aren't always present in every patient. Poorly trained doctors or providers who don’t order the appropriate diagnostic tests can cause harm to patients by providing an incorrect diagnosis.
The most commonly misdiagnosed conditions are:
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- Blood clot
- Tumors or masses inside the body
Diagnosis errors are usually caught at a later date, often when the patient doesn't respond to the prescribed treatment or seeks a second option. The length of delay in obtaining a correct diagnosis plays a key role in determining the patient's eligibility for compensation, since longer delays are more likely to limit a patient's options for treatment.
Americans are taking more prescription drugs than ever before, so it's not surprising that medication errors are a common form of medical malpractice. Examples of this type of error include:
- Giving a patient the wrong medication
- Failing to dispense the appropriate medication at the correct time
- Giving an incorrect dosage
- Failing to notice a harmful drug interaction
Surgical errors that may constitute the basis of a malpractice claim include:
- Performing the wrong operation
- Performing an unneeded operation
- Failing to obtain informed consent before the procedure
- Damaging a nerve during surgery
- Failing to control bleeding
- Leaving medical sponges or surgical instruments inside the patient
- Giving the patient an incorrect dose of anesthesia
- Failing to move the patient periodically during surgery to avoid putting too much pressure on certain parts of the body
- Giving the patient an infection by failing to follow proper sanitation procedures
- Knowingly using defective equipment
Surgical errors can occur even during routine procedures. However, spinal surgery and gastrointestinal surgery are associated with the highest numbers of surgical errors.
Pregnancy and Childbirth Errors
Although modern medicine has made pregnancy and childbirth fairly safe, there are many complications that can occur during this time. When a doctor isn't mindful of potential complications, both the mother and her child can suffer harm. Examples of pregnancy and childbirth related malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis of placental abnormalities
- Failure to monitor or recognize the signs of gestational diabetes
- Failure to stop an excessively long labor
- Surgical errors during a C-section delivery
- Nerve injuries to the baby during delivery
Next to general surgeons, OB/GYN physicians have the highest number of malpractice claims per year.
Proving a Malpractice Case
Experiencing a bad outcome is not proof of medical malpractice. To win your malpractice claim, you must establish the following four key elements:
- Duty. The healthcare provider had a duty of care or doctor/patient relationship with you.
- Breach of Duty. The provider failed to deliver care that is consistent with recognized medical treatment standards for your condition.
- Damages. Your condition worsened or you experienced other medical complications.
- Causation. Your damages are directly related to the provider's conduct and not attributed to some other cause.
A malpractice settlement typically includes funds for medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Cases involving disabled children often result in the highest settlements, due to the anticipated cost of their future medical needs.
Since malpractice law is so complex, retaining legal representation is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected. Your attorney can line up the necessary documentation about your injury, locate relevant expert testimony, and negotiate with the insurer on your behalf. In many cases, a malpractice attorney will be able to settle the case without the time and expense of a court trial.
The experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault are committed to helping Louisiana residents who've been the victims of medical negligence receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. Appointments are available at six convenient office locations throughout the state.