Medical malpractice can devastate families and victims. Some types of medical errors cause a patient to die. Other types may hasten death. Medical malpractice can leave a person disabled for life or in constant pain for life. Medical malpractice can then mean that surgeries are needed to correct the mistakes. If the errors can’t be corrected, then patients may not be able to work, may suffer diseases, and may need extensive time meeting with therapists just to have some semblance of a normal life.
Medical malpractice applies to hospitals, doctors, nurses, diagnostic technicians, and anyone who provides healthcare services. Generally, healthcare providers are required to exercise a reasonable medical standard of care for all their patients. Medical mistakes are judged by what other healthcare providers with similar training and experience would have provided their patients.
The basic elements of a medical malpractice claim are:
- First, there was a doctor-patient relationship
- Second, the health provider was negligent – not competent
- Third, the negligence caused the patient harm
There are many types of medical malpractice depending on the type of treatment, the stage of the treatment, the patient’s illness, and other factors. Some of the more common types of medical malpractice include the following:
Errors in the operating room – surgical malpractice
Surgeons can commit malpractice in many ways including the following:
- Failing to obtain informed consent. Doctors are required to explain the risks of medical procedures and treatments to their patients. They are then also required to obtain a written consent that the patient is aware of the risks and accepts the risks. It can be a medical error to fail to obtain informed consent – even if the operation is a success.
- Leaving surgical instruments and supplies inside the patients. This type of error can cause infections and can affect other parts of the anatomy.
- Anesthesia errors. Failure to supply the right amount of anesthesia (too much or too little) can endanger the life of the patient. Anesthesia errors include:
Failing to review the patient’s history before the procedure
Giving the patient too much anesthesia.
Failing to monitor the patient.
Not using the right equipment, for example.
Also, administering the anesthesia incorrectly.
- Operating on the wrong patient. It does happen.
- Operating on the right patient but the wrong body part. For example, operating on the right arm instead of the left
- Not sterilizing the equipment. This can easily can infections which can lead to death and other health problems.
- Not performing the procedure correctly. Failure to follow standard operating procedures can be grounds for medical malpractice if the failure causes the patient physical or emotional harm. Incorrect procedures can affect internal organs, can affect blood flow or the amount of oxygen, or can cause a range of dangers and complications
Improper diagnosis or a delayed diagnosis
If a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis or delays the right diagnosis, then two problems arise:
First, the patient continues to suffer until there is a correct diagnosis.
Second, the delay may mean that available treatments are not available.
An experienced Vero Beach lawyer reviews that following types of missed diagnoses:
- Failure to order the right imaging tests, blood work, or other diagnostic tests
- Failure to read the results of the test correctly
- Not taking a full patient history which then misses crucial facts
- Not properly relating the patient’s conditions and test results to the right disease or disorder, for instance
- Failure to diagnose a related or unrelated disease or disorder, for example
For example, a doctor who makes a diagnosis of anxiety when the patient really had heart disease, might be liable for any heart attacks or strokes the patient suffers.
Failure to diagnose cancer is a common medical error for which delay can be fatal
Mistakes during pregnancy and childbirth
Common birth injuries include cerebral palsy, brachial palsy injuries including Erb's palsy, brain injuries, a fractured clavicle, and other disorders. Birth injuries can change a child’s life forever. Some children may never lead normal lives. Many children with birth injuries require long-term medical care.
Gynecologists, obstetricians, general physicians, and other health professionals may be liable for medical malpractice if they:
- Fail to provide proper prenatal care. Examples include failing to diagnose preeclampsia in a mother, diabetes, anemia, and other disorders in the mother. It can be negligence to fail to diagnose a congenital disease or to identify an abnormal pregnancy.
- Make mistakes in the birth delivery room. Birth doctors should anticipate and quickly respond to many known complications. Some of these complications include a lack of oxygen supply, the need to use vacuum extractors or forceps, and the need to perform a cesarean section.
- Fail to provide competent post-delivery care. The doctors and hospital should monitor the mother and newborn for vital signs and other known possible complications.
Medication errors take various forms:
- Prescribing the wrong medication for the wrong disease
- Prescribing the wrong medication for the right disease
- Giving the medication to the wrong person
Prescribing the incorrect dosage can also be medical malpractice.
Failure to provide the right treatment
Doctors who make the correct diagnosis for a patient’s disease or disorder can still be negligent. The patient has the right to expect the right treatments for the right disease and the right to know the risks. In some cases, the makers of defective medical products and drugs can be held liable based on Florida's product liability laws if the defect harms the patient.