Doctor negligence is a type of medical malpractice that occurs when a health care professional fails in some way to provide proper care to a patient. Whether the result of simple careless or sheer incompetence, doctor error mean serious health consequences for the patient. When negligence is proven as the cause of a plaintiff’s injuries, the doctor may be held accountable for the harm.
There are a number of actions and failures of action that fall under the broad umbrella of doctor negligence.
Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose
A missed or delayed diagnosis of a condition can have devastating consequences for a patient. This is particularly true in the case of cancer, where fast, accurate diagnosis and treatment can mean the difference between life and death.
Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine states that 2 percent of all cardiac events and heart attacks aren’t accurately diagnosed. And a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of a stroke can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Some of the reasons for missed, inaccurate or delayed diagnoses might include:
- The physician does not put sufficient time and attention to the patient’s symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis
- The physician fails to include the correct condition in a list of probable causes as he works through the diagnostic process
- The doctor does not order the correct tests or procedures to confirm an accurate diagnosis
- The diagnostic equipment was defective or human error prevented accurate completion of the diagnostic tests
Failure to diagnose can delay much needed treatment for the patient. A wrong diagnosis can lead to incorrect treatment or medications being prescribed. In some cases, patients are diagnosed with conditions they do not really have, causing them unnecessary pain, medical treatment and anxiety.
Doctor negligence can also take place in the operating room.
Some of the common surgical errors include:
- Operating on a wrong body part
- Leaving an instrument inside the patient
- Perforation of other organs during procedure
- Failure to react appropriately when complications arise
- Negligence in post-op care, resulting in complications or infection
Surgical errors can have serious consequences for a patient. In some cases, they may require additional surgery to repair the problem. Others might suffer ongoing pain, infection or other complications long after the surgery is over.
A 2006 study found that medication errors occur in approximately 1.5 percent of U.S. residents every year. Medication mistakes often lead to severe complications, which may require hospitalization in some cases. Some patients even die as a result of medication errors.
Medication errors include:
- Incorrect dosing, resulting in the patient getting too little or too much of the prescribed treatment
- The wrong medication is prescribed, resulting in harm to the patient
- The nurse or hospital staff incorrectly administers a patient’s medication
- The device administering the medication malfunctions, giving the patient the wrong amount of medication
- The right medication is given to the wrong patient in a hospital setting
Anesthesia mistakes typically occur at the time of surgery, but they can be even more serious than common surgical errors.
Some of the common reasons for anesthesia errors include:
- Failing to collect sufficient information about a patient’s medical history before the procedure
- Failing to monitor vital signs while the patient is under the influence of anesthesia
- Administering too much anesthesia to the patient
- Using defective equipment to administer anesthesia or monitor vital signs
- Improperly intubating patients so they do not receive sufficient oxygen flow during the procedure
Anesthesia mistakes can have life-altering ramifications for the patient. These errors may lead to permanent injuries, brain damage or death.
Plastic surgery mistakes
An increasing number of patients who’ve opted for cosmetic surgery have reported disastrous and disfiguring outcomes. Although no surgery is completely free of risks, patients expect the surgeon to perform the procedure competently, in order to minimize risks of complications. Catastrophic consequences can occur when appropriate standards of care were not given either before, during or after the plastic surgery procedure.
Examples of plastic surgery mistakes include:
- Permanent scarring
- Nerve damage (permanent in some cases)
- Excessive bleeding and infections
- Necrosis (tissue death)
- Organ damage
- Wrongful death
Proving medical negligence in court
Proving doctor negligence in a medical malpractice lawsuit involves four basic components:
- The plaintiff must prove a relationship existed with the physician in question
- It must be shown that the doctor was negligent in his treatment
- The negligence must be shown to be the direct cause of the injury
- The injury incurred led to specific damages on the part of the plaintiff (pain, medical bills, mental suffering, lost wages)
If the plaintiff can prove another physician would have made a different diagnosis or prescribed a different treatment that would have resulted in a better outcome for the patient, a medical malpractice case may have merit. Regardless, it is imperative that patients consult with attorneys right away, as the statute of limitations governs time limits on all malpractice cases.
Compensating victims of doctor negligence
When plaintiffs pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, there are a number of damages that might be considered in the case, including:
- General damages – these include compensation for a patient’s suffering, which might include physical and mental pain, diminished quality of life and loss of companionship
- Special damages – special damages cover tangible losses suffered by the plaintiff, such as medical and hospital bills and lost wages
- Punitive damages – these damages may be awarded if the patient can prove the doctor knowingly acted in a malicious or reckless manner that was harmful to the patient
In the case of a wrongful death claim, survivors may also be entitled to compensation from the time the malpractice occurred to the patient’s death. In some cases, future financial losses of the family may also be calculated into these damages.
Contacting medical negligence lawyers
Because doctor negligence can be challenging to prove, the assistance of skilled legal counsel is imperative. The medical negligence lawyers at Eisbrouch Marsh offer more than four decades of experience representing those who have been injured at the hands of health care providers. Our law firm provides a full staff of legal and medical professionals to help clients recover the compensation to which they are entitled. Consultations are free and no fee is collected unless we win your case. Call us now to schedule your complimentary case evaluation.
- National Institutes of Health, An Introduction to Medical Malpractice in the United States, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628513/
- USA Today, When a heart attack goes undiagnosed http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-10-24-missed-heart-attacks_x.htm
- ABC News, Misdiagnosed cancer not uncommon, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=131047
- Fox News, Cancer Victim's Family Receives $492,000 for Misdiagnosis, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2010/03/26/cancer-victim-family-receives-42000-for-misdiagnosis/
- New York Daily News, Michigan doctor held on $9 million bond for misdiagnosing cancer patients in Medicare scam, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/doctor-held-9-million-bond-misdiagnosing-cancer-medicare-scam-article-1.1428639
- Forbes, 10 Things You Want To Know About Medical Malpractice, http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/05/16/10-things-you-want-to-know-about-medical-malpractice/