When it comes to your health, the last thing you want to worry about is not being able to trust your doctor. Even if you do everything right, like eating a healthy diet and exercising daily, you’ll still need medical help from time to time. For this, you rely on your doctor to diagnose and treat certain conditions, address certain health risks, and even help with preventive medicine. Doctors, however, are not perfect, and sometimes they’re even negligent and engage (knowingly or not) in medical malpractice. Detailed below are the top 7 causes of medical malpractice.
What Exactly Is Medical Malpractice and Why Does It Occur?
Medical malpractice is a devastating occurrence and involves a serious breach of trust on the part of medical professionals. After a case of medical malpractice, the individual patient and even society as a whole may lose some level of faith in the healthcare system to care for their health-related needs.
But why does medical malpractice occur? Understanding the reasons for medical malpractice begins with knowing what it is in the first place. In Texas, medical malpractice involves any acts or omissions of a healthcare professional during the treatment of a patient which stray from the accepted standard of care and result in injury (see TX CPRC Code Chapter 74 Subchapter A). A hospital or other medical facility may also be at fault.
When determining whether medical malpractice has occurred, it is important to realize that simply because a doctor makes a mistake does not mean they have committed medical malpractice. The error must be of such a nature to be considered negligence. Additionally, medical malpractice is not the same as an undesirable result. For instance, if a surgeon performs an operation but the desired result is not achieved, medical malpractice has not necessarily occurred. Only if the surgeon has deviated from accepted standards of medical care during the surgery and directly caused an injury can that action be deemed medical malpractice.
The Top 7 Causes of Medical Malpractice
Due to the complex nature of the healthcare system, medical malpractice can occur in many different contexts, from surgeries to laboratory testing. Additionally, many different professionals can potentially commit medical malpractice aside from doctors. Nurses, midwives, physician assistants, lab technicians, and many other professionals in the industry may all commit acts that rise to the level of medical malpractice.
While each case is different, there are 7 causes that are most prevalent in medical malpractice:
1. Diagnostic Errors
Diagnostic errors are the most common cause and lead to malpractice in a variety of ways. Without an accurate diagnosis, you may not receive the necessary treatments or tests that can help you heal faster and sometimes even prolong your life. These diagnostic errors include:
- Failure to make a diagnosis on an existing health issue, wherein your doctor fails to make any diagnosis, overlooking revealing symptoms. These situations often occur in outpatient settings, emergency rooms, and medical facilities.
- Misdiagnosis, resulting in treatments that can cause harmful side effects and injury. Misdiagnosis of strokes, asthma, cancer, and heart attacks is the most common.
- Delay in making a diagnosis, or the failure to recognize a health condition based on the symptoms you are currently experiencing. Not making a diagnosis can cause additional illness, injury, and even death in some circumstances. They may delay sending you for tests as well. For example, cancer is best treated when diagnosed early. Any delay in a diagnosis can allow progression of the disease.
2. Failure to Treat
A patient’s care depends on a diagnosis and implementation of tests and treatments in the wake of that diagnosis. As a result of any lapse in such treatment, additional health issues can occur, including progression of a health condition, a related illness, or an injury. While closely related to delayed diagnosis, a failure to treat often occurs when a healthcare provider does one of the following:
- Incorrectly evaluates the severity of symptoms
- Fails to order the right tests
- Fails to make specialist referrals for patients so they can receive needed treatment.
3. Surgical Mistakes
Surgical mistakes can occur at different points in your care. Besides just during the surgery itself, errors may be made in your pre- or post-operative care.
Surgical mistakes subject to a medical malpractice claim include:
- Accidental puncturing or other injury to an organ or another part of the body
- Failing to remove all surgical instruments or aids from the body (e.g., clamps, swabs, sponges, retractors, or drains)
- Operating on the wrong body part, including the wrong side (e.g., left kidney instead of the diseased right kidney), or performing the wrong procedure
- Operating on the wrong patient
- Choosing to perform surgery without trying other treatments first.
As a result of surgical mistakes, the patient may need to undergo more surgeries or treatments, adding additional risk.
Another area of concern during an operation is the administration of anesthesia. Precise amounts are calculated based on the patient, and any variation or miscalculation of this amount can cause severe issues, including disability and brain damage. In some cases, death may occur.
4. Medication Errors
Medication can have profound effects on a patient, and when that medication is improperly administered, malpractice can occur. These medication errors may occur while you are hospitalized or after release with a mistaken prescription.
Causes of medication errors include:
- Failure to collect or review a patient’s full medical history
- Failure to heed potential medication interactions
- Dosage or other errors by those prescribing or providing medications directly to patients
- Mistakes by a pharmacy in filling a prescription.
5. Childbirth Injuries
While childbirth is an exciting time for a family, unfortunate and preventable childbirth injuries can occur. When a healthcare provider is negligent at any stage of care, malpractice may result for any of the following reasons:
- Lack of efficient prenatal care
- Failure to diagnose a condition of the mother (e.g., pre-eclampsia or anemia)
- Overlooking a distressed fetus
- Medication errors
- Failure or delay in ordering a C-section
- Injury from birthing tools such as forceps and vacuums.
Childbirth injuries can lead to brain injuries, developmental problems, various infections, and other complications, including cerebral palsy and paralysis.
Medical facilities of any size can be swarming with infectious diseases, including the highly threatening Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”). Patients are more likely to catch one of these infections when healthcare providers fail to protect them appropriately.
Other infections leading to malpractice cases include urinary tract infections caused by catheters, pneumonia associated with ventilator usage, surgical site infections, and others.
7. Defective Medical Equipment
It takes a lot of different medical equipment to treat patients, and when one of them malfunctions in some way, it can result in injury to a patient. These malfunctions can involve breathing-assistance equipment, heart monitors, and defibrillators.
Medical equipment that fails at crucial moments can put your life in danger, cause additional health problems, or cause injuries. While in some cases the manufacturer may be held responsible, in many instances a doctor may also be at fault.
These top 7 causes of medical malpractice are not the only ones considered when filing a claim. If you believe a different cause led to your injury or illness, consult with a legal professional for guidance.
What’s the Main Reason Patients File Malpractice Claims’?
While causes listed in malpractice claims can vary, underlying them all is a common reason for filing. So, what’s the main reason patients file malpractice claims?
At the heart of every medical malpractice is the aftereffect wherein a preventable injury or illness occurs due to the actions or non-actions taken by medical professionals.
The main reason many patients file malpractice claims is to seek financial compensation for the resulting injury or illness, pain and suffering, actual losses, or the need for future care.
The needs following malpractice can be expensive, and seeking compensation to cover these is an understandable right.
Other reasons to file malpractice claims include:
- To hold medical professionals accountable
- To provide for a patient or family member’s need to understand what and how the injury could happen
- To prevent what happened to you or a loved one from happening again.
What Is the Most Common Reason for Malpractice?
If you’re wondering why malpractice happens and what is the most common reason for malpractice, the answer is negligence.
Negligence happens when a medical professional or facility fails to exercise a certain standard of care, or duty, which others in such a position would do in a similar situation. As a result, injury occurs.
Negligence may happen accidentally, without the intention of failing to provide you with the standard of care needed and expected. Situations such as this often occur in fast-paced emergency rooms. Various other causes result in negligence, such as doctor distraction.
Contact Our Houston Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today
If you believe you’ve been affected by negligence by a medical professional or facility, you deserve to know your rights. Contact Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law today for a thorough evaluation of your case.
Medical malpractice claims are rarely simple to prove, and they are often expensive and difficult to pursue. That’s why you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
Call our office now for a free, confidential case review at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000.