In actuality, there is nothing “common” about medical malpractice lawsuits, as they come in a variety of disparate areas.
If you’ve ever picked up a paper and taken a good look at the headlines, you’ll likely see a case or two relating to medical malpractice. At least you will if the case is large enough to garner a fair amount of public exposure. Otherwise, many med mal lawsuits go unreported and virtually unnoticed except for the plaintiff and defendant.
The reality of the matter relating to how frequently medical malpractice lawsuits are filed lies somewhere in the middle. Either they are far more frequent than we believe and doctors have to pay out more in liability insurance (malpractice insurance) or the numbers are not as high as we think because many people don’t realize they have been the victim of medical malpractice or choose not to report it for fear of alienating their doctor. The truth at times is stranger than fiction.
The most up-to-date statistics relating to medication errors are from 2006, the follow-up survey done by the Institute of Medicine. Their updated figures show that from 1999’s first report indicating malpractice caused 98,000 deaths to 2006, the figure shot up to an estimated 1.5 million. Obviously the problem is not getting better with time. This particular set of numbers also showed outpatient clinics were responsible for the largest number of mistakes and deaths than a hospital. On the other hand when hospitals the made a mistake, they made ones that resulted in more severe injuries.
You may be wondering what kinds of mistakes doctors and other medical practitioners make. Generally speaking, the errors fall into five categories: medication errors, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, anesthesia malpractice and birth errors.
Doctors have the initial responsibility to correctly diagnose a patient’s illness. If they don’t get it right there is a high likelihood the treatment and/or medications will also be wrong. Failure to diagnose breast cancer is cited in roughly 40 percent of med mal lawsuits.
Another large percentage of med mal lawsuits are based on medication errors, which could mean the wrong medicine entirely, an incorrect dose, a wrong prescription or the wrong combination of drugs. These kinds of errors will of course make the patient’s condition a great deal worse, or in the extreme, result in wrongful death.
Birth injuries are usually caused by several things that include the doctor failing to provide pre-natal care, not performing tests that would show if there are any fetal abnormalities, not recognizing fetal distress, rushing to deliver the child too soon causing injuries for the mother and child, and providing adequate care for preemies. Negligence in this area may cause clavicle fractures (fractured collarbone), cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy and shoulder dystocia, etc.
During surgery, just about anything is likely to happen. In most instances of surgical errors, negligence has played a large part in the death or injury. Generally speaking most injuries or deaths are the result of negligent pre-op planning and after surgery care. Other errors include not giving the right dose of anesthesia, performing the operation on the wrong part of the patient’s anatomy, puncturing an internal organ and leaving instruments in the body.
Of course anesthesia is a part of surgery and this calls for precision and a great deal of expertise in making sure the right dose is given and there are no pre-existing conditions that may complicate matters. The wrong dose may be fatal or cause serious long-term difficulties for the patient.
Medical malpractice may be found in just about any setting from the hospital to a pharmacy and from a dental office to the clinic of a gynecologist. If you think you may be a victim of medical malpractice, do not hesitate to contact a highly qualified medical malpractice attorney to find out what your rights are and have your potential case assessed.
Robert Webb is an Atlanta personal injury lawyer with Webb & D’Orazio. To learn more about Atlanta personal injury lawyer, Atlanta personal injury, Atlanta business law, Atlanta criminal defense visit, Webbdorazio.com.