Every year, patients across the country are injured due to medical malpractice (or medical negligence). Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, health care professional, hospital or health care facility fails to care for a patient in accordance with the accepted standards of the medical profession and the person is injured, becomes ill, or a condition worsens as a result.
The elements of a medical malpractice case
A poor outcome from surgery or medical treatment is not, in itself, an indication of medical malpractice. For an ill or injured person to prevail in a malpractice case, certain elements need to be established:
- The individual was under the care of a physician;
- In the course of advising, diagnosing, or treating the person, the physician failed to act as a doctor in the specialty should act; and
- As a result the person was injured, became ill, or a condition or injury worsened.
Experienced attorneys like those at Parker Waichman LLP can offer information and advice to people who may have a malpractice claim.
Types of Malpractice
There are many types of malpractice. The person may have received improper treatment. For example, a doctor diagnoses a broken leg but does not properly apply a cast. The bone does not heal properly and the patient has problems walking.
A mother or child may suffer an injury during birth. An obstetrician mishandles a baby’s head during birth, causing Erb’s Palsy. An obstetrician fails to diagnose that the mother needs to give birth by caesarean section and the mother bleeds profusely during birth, resulting in stroke; or the baby suffers brain injury due to lack of oxygen.
A health care professional may make a prescription error. A doctor diagnoses the condition properly but prescribes the wrong medication, making the condition worse. The doctor makes the proper diagnosis and prescribes that would be the right medication, but fails to notice that the patients is allergic to that medication, causing the patient violent illness.
Malpractice may also arise from the failure to diagnose a condition or misdiagnosis. For example, a doctor diagnoses strep throat but fails to biopsy a suspicious growth in the throat. A few months later, another doctors diagnoses cancer. The doctor may fail to monitor a condition. After a minor heart attack, the doctor fails to properly monitor the patient’s progress and the patient has a second, more severe heart attack.
The doctor may make a surgical error. During a routine colonoscopy, for example, the doctor fails to remove a polyp that later is diagnosed as colon cancer. Or the doctor operates on the wrong body part, or leaves a surgical sponge or surgical instrument in the body, causing infection.
A patient may have a malpractice case if the doctor fails to properly inform the patient of the risks of a specific procedure. Doctors are required to advise the patient of the risks so the patient can give informed consent to having the procedure done. When the doctor does not adequately spell out the risks associated with the procedure, the patient may have a malpractice case. Or the doctor may urge a particular procedure as the best option without exploring other treatment options or fully explaining the downsides of the recommended procedure.
In medical malpractice cases, both side usually call on expert witnesses to support their arguments. An expert witness is usually a doctor or health care professional, with special knowledge about the specific issues in the case. The expert can offer an opinion on the professional standards of the medical community and whether the doctor/health care professional or facility breached those standards.
Medical malpractice lawsuits can be brought against a hospital for administering improper doses of medication, negligent nursing care, or for lapses in sanitation or equipment maintenance that result in injuries or infection. The patient may have a malpractice case if a physician deviates from the accepted standards of practice or a specialist who deviates from the nationally accepted standard of practice for specialists in that field of medicine. In some instances, a case can be brought against a government agency that operates a hospital or provides medical care.
Legal Help For People Affected By Medical Malpractice
If you or a loved one has been injured, has become ill, or has suffered adverse health affects because of medical malpractice, please contact Parker Waichman for free, no obligation evaluation of a possible case. Fill out the online contact form or call at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).