Medical negligence is defined as the act or omission in treatment of a patient by a medical professional, which deviates from the accepted medical standard of care. The medical standard of care required in a patient's treatment will become an integral element of any negligence lawsuit. By establishing the standard of care required in a patient's case, and demonstrating how a medical professional deviated from the standard of care that caused an undue injury, an attorney can prove negligence occurred to a patient.
Medical Standard of Care
The medical standard of care can be thought of as a playbook that outlines patient treatment under various medical situations. Medical professionals must adhere to mandatory requirements to ensure the safety of their patients. When doctors are granted a medical license, they take the Hippocratic Oath, which is basically a promise to treat their patients, to the best of their ability, to avoid causing them harm. When a doctor or other medical professional breaks this oath, they are considered negligent in legal terms. When a court is attempting to determine if a medical professional acted negligently, they will compare their performance to the accepted medical standard of care.
Types of Medical Negligence
A difficult part of any doctor's job is analyzing a set of symptoms, and diagnosing the injury or illness which caused these symptoms to occur. In many cases, similar symptoms can actually be caused by various illnesses. A misdiagnosis of the underlying symptoms can result in the wrong treatment by the medical professional. For example, a common form of medical misdiagnosis is related to a heart attack diagnosis, or commonly referred to as coronary artery disease. CAD is a medical condition that may not show symptoms for years, but can result in a massive heart attack and death. Often, the first sign of an impending heart attack will be chest pains, which can be misdiagnosed as strained muscles.
Failure to Timely Diagnose
In many cases, an illness or injury becomes more difficult to treat as time passes. It is usually vital that a doctor diagnose an illness or injury in a reasonable amount of time, so that appropriate treatment can be administered. For example, a common case relates to cancer. If cancer is detected in its early stages, a patient has a much greater chance of recovery, than if it is ignored and allowed to spread. Cancer can be detected in its early stages if the doctor has a chance to examine the patient during a routine check-up. If the doctor fails to properly diagnose the symptoms of cancer, then the patient could be sent home, and the cancer could spread. However, each case is unique, and whether or not this could be considered medical negligence, depends on the specific circumstances of the case.
Surgical errors are a common form of medical negligence. A negligent act can involve a doctor accidentally cutting or cauterizing an internal organ, if a more careful performance could have prevented it. Some common injuries resulting from surgical errors relate to foreign fluids, such as urine, bile, or feces that enter the abdominal cavity, through a cut unintentionally made during surgery. This can lead to severe infections and sepsis, or septic shock, which can cause a patients' death. Another example of surgical error is called a wrong site surgery. There have been documented cases of patients needing an arm, leg, hand, or finger amputated, and an administrative mistake prior to surgery, results in the wrong appendage being removed.
Failure to Follow Up with Treatment
This form of medical negligence involves a doctor prescribing treatment, but failing to monitor the progress, and adjusting or terminating treatment when needed. An example would be a patient with a high blood iron content being prescribed regular blood drawings to reduce the iron levels in his or her blood. Routinely drawing blood can have a negative impact on the general immune system function. If a doctor is negligent and fails to monitor the progress, a nurse could continue the regular blood drawings as ordered, but unknowingly cause severe damage to the patients' immune system, which could eventually result in death.
Failure to Treat in a Timely Manner
After a doctor has diagnosed a patients' illness or injury, treatment should be administered in a timely manner to give the patient the best possible chance of recovery. If a doctor fails to treat the patient quickly enough, then negligence has possibly occurred. Often, this form of medical negligence takes place in an emergency room, where timely medical treatment could mean the difference between life and death. Another example relates to birth injury cases. In a case of fetal distress, doctors have to act quickly and perform a c-section to remove a baby before permanent injury occurs to the fetal brain. With many cases, the failure to perform a C-section in a timely manner has resulted in permanent
brain injury, or
cerebral palsy in a new born baby.
The administration of anesthesia poses a high risk during a surgical procedure. This is the reason why anesthesiologists practice such a focused medicine. Anesthesia errors can lead to a brain injury or organ failures. Anesthesia errors can also lead to death via asphyxia or heart failure. In some cases, medication administered to a patient prior to a surgical procedure can affect the drugs used for anesthesia. An anesthesiologist must thoroughly examine the patient’s medical records before making a decision on the type or mixture of drugs to use to anesthetize the patient for surgery. A failure to do so can result in serious injury to the patient and this may be grounds for a negligence claim.
Medication or Prescription Error
Medication and prescription drug negligence usually occurs in either of two ways. First, a doctor prescribes a patient a drug that causes injury because of a dosage error, misdiagnosis of symptoms, or a failure to check for an allergic reaction. Second, a pharmacist fills a prescription incorrectly that causes an injury to the patient. If you have sustained an injury due to the negligent acts of a doctor or pharmacist in relation to your medication, then you could have a valid medical negligence claim.
Contact a Medical Negligence Attorney
The decision-making process involving medical treatments are complex and medical negligence laws can be highly complicated. If you believe you or a member of your family, have sustained an injury due to medical negligence, your case will require professional legal representation to prepare a viable medical negligence lawsuit.
Dr. Bruce Fagel is both a highly skilled and experienced medical malpractice and negligence attorney, and a licensed physician. Dr. Fagel has been nominated eight times by the Consumer Attorney Association for the prestigious Trial Lawyer of the Year award. His extensive background and knowledge have made him one of the most successful medical malpractice lawyers in the United States. Due to the frequent success over his many years of practice, approximately 95% of the medical malpractice cases filed by his office settle prior to the trial date. He has resolved more than 700 medical malpractice and negligence cases and recovered more than $1 billion in verdicts and settlements. Dr. Fagel has experience dealing with insurance companies and understands how to counter their strategies, which are attempted to force patients into an unfavorable financial settlement. All of his cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, which means that if you do not win your case, you will not have to pay any fees. For a free case evaluation,
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This resource page is provided by Dr. Bruce Fagel for your information. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.