What Is Medical Malpractice?

You have more than likely heard of medical malpractice before, and there is a chance that you have even experienced it firsthand. It is defined as improper, illegal, or negligent professional activity or treatment by a healthcare professional or a medical practitioner.

Medical malpractice typically happens when a healthcare professional such as a hospital staff or doctor’s error leads to an injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. This can stem from acts like an incorrect diagnosis, inappropriate treatment, insufficient aftercare, or poor health management.

Characteristics of Medical Malpractice

It is not always clear immediately if someone has been the victim of medical malpractice. If you are not sure, there are a few characteristics that you can look for. A medical malpractice attorney can assist in determining whether your claim meets the following requirements.

Violation of the Standard of Care

The legal system and its laws acknowledge that there are specific medical standards by which healthcare professionals are expected to perform. In the healthcare field, if the medical treatment provided by a healthcare professional does not meet these standards, then this is a violation of the standard of care.

This concept, traditionally known as the “standard of care,” is a standard that all patients have the right to expect from healthcare professionals, whether they are going to a routine doctor’s visit or visiting the emergency room for treatment. All care that one receives should be consistent with the standard of care.

When the standard of care is not met, this is considered to be negligent. Once negligence has been established, you can safely argue that you have suffered from medical malpractice.

Injury Caused By Negligence

Despite not meeting the standard of care, this might not be enough for your medical malpractice claim to be valid. Unfortunately, it is not enough for a healthcare professional to simply violate the standard of care.

Unfortunately, not meeting the standard of care is not always enough for your medical malpractice claim to be valid. A violation of the standard of care is a great starting point, but patients will need to prove that more has occurred than just a poor outcome.

Patients must prove that an injury is the direct result of negligence. This means that when a healthcare professional violates the standard of care, the patient suffers from an injury of some kind that was caused by their negligent actions (or lack of actions).

Significant Damages From Injury

Lawsuits that cover medical malpractice lawsuits can quickly become expensive, with costs adding up. Testimonies can take quite a while when it comes to these types of lawsuits, because there are a variety of medical experts who will need to be consulted.

A medical malpractice case requires patients to prove significant damages have occurred due to the injury received. If this is not possible, your case is not viable. When this happens, it is likely because the damages inflicted were too small. This can result in your case actually costing more than the eventual recovery.

To avoid this, you should aim to prove that one of the following have occurred due to medical malpractice:

  • Physical or mental disability
  • A loss of income due to missed work
  • Unusual or unfamiliar pain
  • Emotional suffering and hardships
  • Past or future medical bills

Examples of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice can take on many different forms, and this medical negligence can involve one or more of the following examples.

Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose

A medical misdiagnosis is exactly what it sounds like – it occurs when a patient’s healthcare provider incorrectly diagnoses them. This can also include a delayed diagnosis, such as a healthcare professional not catching a diagnosis soon enough.

If a healthcare professional fails to diagnose a patient with a medical condition or a medical complication that results in the patient becoming injured, pre-existing conditions can become worse or new conditions can form.

Misinterpreting Lab Results

Unfortunately, misdiagnosis due to misinterpreting lab results is not uncommon. After a misdiagnosis, many healthcare professionals end up miscommunicating with either their patients or other healthcare professionals involved in treatment. Up to 62% of lab and 36% of imaging results are either misinterpreted, or overlooked altogether.

On top of this, healthcare professionals may miscommunicate and send test results back to whatever doctor ordered them rather than to the doctor that a patient is currently seeing. This means that if you have been transferred from one hospital to another, test results may be sent to the wrong hospital.

Unnecessary Surgeries & Surgical Errors

Unnecessary surgery is not something anyone wants to go through. For a surgery to be considered unnecessary, it must not be beneficial to a patient or not in their best interest.

Unfortunately, there are surgeons in the industry who encourage unnecessary surgeries for their personal monetary gain. There are also surgeons who recommend unnecessary surgeries out of ignorance. At the end of the day, though, most unnecessary surgeries are the result of incompetence, misdiagnosis, inexperience, or greed

Unnecessary surgery can be incredibly expensive and expose patients to more risks and complications – for no genuine reason.

The most common unnecessary surgeries include C-sections, hysterectomies, spinal fusions and back surgeries, angioplasty or heart stents, episiotomy, pacemakers, gallbladder removal, tonsillectomies, knee and hip replacements, and heartburn surgeries.

Improper Medication or Dosage

In the United States, there are thousands of prescription medications being prescribed to patients and countless over-the-counter drugs available for purchase. With how easy it is to access medication, an incorrect medication dose can be detrimental.

Medication errors are preventable. When a medication dosage is incorrectly prescribed, it can lead to patients using the medication inappropriately (such as abusing it) or it can directly harm the patient.

While medication errors can occur at any point in time, they most often occur when a doctor is prescribing and ordering medication. When transcribing a prescription and dosage, errors can lead to incorrect dispensing and administering, and as a result, monitoring.

A doctor may prescribe an incorrect dosage or an incorrect route of administration, give medicine to the wrong patient, ignore potential drug interactions, and more.

Poor Aftercare or Premature Discharge

How a patient is treated after they leave a healthcare professional’s care matters just as much as the care received in person. Discharge and aftercare of a patient is a multifaceted interaction that involves many different moving parts and healthcare providers.

Because of this, professionals can poorly communicate about a patient’s discharge, which can lead to a variety of negative occurrences once out of the hospital. Without the proper aftercare, a patient may need to be readmitted. In severe cases, patients may even suffer further injury or death.

Discharge planning is used to avoid a lack of communication between professionals and encourage role clarity and resources. By incorporating discharge planning into a patient’s aftercare, premature discharge or poor aftercare can be avoided.

Failure to Recognize a Patient’s Symptoms and History

When a patient is being treated by a healthcare professional, it is crucial that all information about the patient is gathered. If it is the first time a doctor has encountered a patient, they should perform a thorough examination that familiarizes them with the patient’s medical history.

Unfortunately, some healthcare professionals fail to recognize all of a patient’s symptoms and medical history, which can reveal relevant chronic illnesses and other prior diseases that may have impacted the patient’s long-term health.

A thorough medical history should take into account all past surgeries, family medical history, social history, all allergies, and any medications the patient has taken or is taking.

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