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The 3rd Leading Cause Of Death In The US Is Medical Error-Here’s Why It’s Happening

The 3rd Leading Cause Of Death In The US Is Medical Error-Here's Why It's Happening

You tell your doctor on two separate occasions that you are experiencing significant pain in your upper back. And both times, he sees nothing that could be causing your problem, so he sends you home with some pain medication.

The next day, though, your pain has worsened. On top of this, you start to develop weakness and numbness in your leg. You eventually lose feeling in your legs altogether.

Another doctor finally diagnoses you with what’s called a spinal epidural abscess. At that point, you undergo surgery to have the abscess removed.

The good news? The cause of your pain is gone.

The bad news? You’re now facing extensive physical therapy due to the first doctor’s medical error. And your life will forever be changed.

Unfortunately, you’re not the only person going through this.

Research shows that medical mistakes now constitute the third most common cause of death across the United States. That means they have surpassed diabetes, strokes and Alzheimer’s.

Medical errors may occur in just about any health care setting. These include the following:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Medical offices
  • Pharmacies
  • Surgery centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Patients’ own homes.

Here’s a rundown on why medical errors are such major issues today.

Let’s get started!

Examples of Medical Errors

Medical errors can take many forms.

For instance, a doctor might diagnose you with an incorrect condition or illness. As a result, you might receive the wrong treatment, which may cause you even more problems.

In other situations, physicians tell patients they don’t have serious conditions, even though they actually do have major medical problems. In other words, they are failing to diagnose their patients’ conditions.

In these situations, the patients’ conditions can quickly worsen. This may lead to permanent health issues.

Unfortunately, medical errors can cause not only physical problems but also emotional and mental damages. For instance, if you become paralyzed due to a medical error, your mental health can quickly decline.

Let’s take a peek below at some of the most common causes of today’s medical errors — and what you can do about them.

Prescription-Related Errors

In many cases today, physicians don’t prescribe the correct medications or dosages. This is a training issue (more on that later).

In addition, sometimes their prescriptions are illegible, so nurses end up reading them incorrectly.

Another common prescription-related medical error? Pharmacies read prescriptions correctly but fill them incorrectly.

To combat the second abovementioned issue, more doctors are sending their prescriptions electronically versus writing them by hand.

To remedy the third issue mentioned above, robots may become increasingly useful for filling prescriptions. After all, they’re less prone to making mistakes.

Communication Issues

Communication breakdowns are yet another leading cause of errors in the medical field.

These breakdowns can occur in either written or verbal communication. Also, they can easily happen among doctors, nurses, health care team members and patients.

Human, Technical and Policy Issues

Human issues are also causing many of today’s medical errors.

When we say “human issues,” we’re talking about medical professionals’ failure to follow care standards, processes, procedures or policies efficiently or properly.

Examples of human issues are poor documentation or inadequate specimen labeling. Inadequate staffing can also be an issue, as overworked staff are more at risk of making dangerous medical mistakes.

In addition, doctors and other medical care providers may simply lack the knowledge they need to provide appropriate care in a given situation.

It’s critical that staff have the appropriate postsecondary training for their roles. But they also need to complete refresher courses and training sessions. That’s the only way they’ll stay current in their specialty areas.

If doctors wish to transition into another area of the medical field or do another kind of surgery, they absolutely must complete the appropriate training.

Along with human issues, technical issues can result in serious medical errors. For instance, medical devices, equipment, implants or grafts may fail or cause complications.

In some cases, the culprit is the lack of adequate policies and procedures altogether.

Organizational Knowledge-Transfer and Information-Flow Problems

A number of today’s medical errors additionally stem from a lack of training for temporary workers or new employees, too. Thus, it’s paramount that the knowledge of experienced staff is transferred to inexperienced staff before they start caring for patients.

Also, if patients are transferred from one facility to another, it’s paramount that their relevant information goes with them.

The proper flow of patient information is necessary in all health care settings, particularly within various service areas. If information doesn’t flow properly, three things can happen — none of them good.

First, doctors won’t have the information they need to make informed prescribing decisions.

Second, doctors won’t have the important test results needed to make decisions.

And finally, medication orders will be poorly coordinated when care responsibilities are being transferred from one party to another.

Patient-Related Problems, Including Poor Patient Supervision

Let’s say that your doctor inappropriately identifies or assesses you. These mistakes can quickly cause you serious medical issues or even death.

In addition, in many cases, patients who are placed in hospitals are not given the supervision they need. For instance, the facilities might have volunteers or students stand in for absent nurses.

When hospitals negligently fail to monitor their patients properly, their patients face a higher risk of suffering injuries.

Another commonly overlooked patient-related issue that results in medical errors is doctors’ failure to obtain patient consent.

Hospital staff and doctors must give their patients — or their families — information about the treatment procedures that the patients need. Only then can the patients and their loved ones understand the potential risks of the procedures.

If a procedure comes with high risks, a medical care provider must then obtain consent from the patient and the family before completing it.

If you as a patient go through a procedure that you did not consent to and it causes you harm, you can seek justice by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against your care provider.

Digging Deeper

Sometimes the cause of a medical error isn’t a doctor’s lack o f knowledge or their inability to communicate, for example. Instead, the problem might be the doctor’s inability to concentrate.

The grim reality is that doctors are oftentimes reluctant to pursue mental care for themselves for suicidal ideation and depression. After all, they may worry that this will keep them from being able to renew their licenses.

Licensing boards at the state level generally have good intentions when interviewing doctors. However, their questions may deter doctors from seeking care.

Such questions include the following:

  • Does the condition of your mental or physical health currently impair your ability to perform your job safely and skillfully?
  • Have you suffered from depression or received treatment from it in the past?

Rather than seeking care, some doctors suffer in silence. And as a result, their patients suffer along with them due to medical malpractice.

Other Medical Error Causes

Some other reasons behind today’s high number of medical errors include the following:

  • Insurance networks that are fragmented
  • Underuse or lack of medical safety nets
  • Variation across doctors’ practice patterns

Still other causes of health care errors are medication mix-ups and even computer breakdowns that aren’t resolved in a timely manner.

The Data Problem

Experts say that although we know that medical mistakes are a huge problem today, we don’t have data on these errors like we should. That’s because our current system for reporting on medical errors in the United States could be better.

The truth is, medical errors aren’t cited as one of the causes of patient death among the ICD codes.

As a result, medical errors aren’t mentioned on the CDC’s yearly list of the most frequent causes of patient death.

In turn, medical errors aren’t given the national research attention they need.

In today’s culture, more emphasis has been placed on pinpointing who to blame for problems instead of seeking solutions. Thus, it may come as no surprise that little has been done to investigate strategies for decreasing systemic medical mistakes and how they impact patient mortality.

Patients today must push for improvements in medical error-related data collection. The more they do this, the more improvement we may see in this area in the years to come.

How We Can Help

If you’ve been injured due to a negligent doctor’s error, it is within your rights to seek damages. And that’s something we can help with.

A medical malpractice case can be complicated, but our years of experience can help you to navigate the process. And with our help, you can increase your chances of being awarded damages.

Get in touch with us today to find out more about your legal rights if you have suffered harm as a result of a preventable medical error.

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These are the 7 Most Common Examples of Medical Malpractice

These are the 7 Most Common Examples of Medical Malpractice

You go to your doctor to heal. But with medical error as the third-leading cause of death in the United States, it can be hard to feel safe going to your appointments–especially if there’s something seriously wrong.

Your doctor has a responsibility to you as a patient. When they fail, you need help to deal with the consequences.

More than that, you deserve respect as a patient in need of help.

Here are some of the most common examples of medical malpractice and how you can protect yourself if you were a victim of a doctor’s negligence.

Most Common Examples of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is a subset of common law under personal injury or tort law, designed to protect the plaintiff (you) from future harm and to compensate you for harm caused.

To be considered medical malpractice under the law, the claim must have the following characteristics:

  • A violation of a standard of care (your doctor had a responsibility to you as a patient which they failed to uphold)
  • An injury that was caused by negligence, which would not have occurred in the absence of negligence
  • The injury resulted in significant damages (otherwise, the cost of litigating the case may be greater than the damages and not worth pursuing)

With that in mind, here are the most common types of medical malpractice.

1. Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis, in personal injury cases, can cover a few different things.

Sometimes, your doctor diagnoses you with one condition, when in reality you have a different condition altogether. A common example of this is diagnosing a patient with the flu when in reality they have Lyme disease.

But misdiagnosis can also mean a failure to diagnose, resulting in inaccurate treatment (or no treatment at all).

This is more common than you would think–in fact, it’s more commonly seen in medical malpractice cases than surgical or drug errors.

Commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:

  • Heart attack
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Lyme disease
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Celiac disease

Sometimes, these conditions present in unusual ways that wouldn’t make sense unless the doctor was looking for them. Those aren’t cases of negligence.

It is negligence when a doctor fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses something that any doctor with their level of training and available information should have been able to figure out.

2. Delayed Diagnosis

Related to misdiagnosis is delayed diagnosis. In fact, the two often go hand-in-hand.

Delayed diagnosis may occur when a doctor misdiagnoses or fails to diagnose a condition, allowing the condition to progress further in the meantime. This can have a detrimental effect on the patient’s health, especially in severe illnesses like cancer.

In order to qualify as a case of negligence in delayed diagnosis, the doctor must have treated the patient less thoroughly than other doctors would have under the same circumstances. For example, the doctor may not have ordered a necessary test that would have made logical sense to pursue.

The trick with this type of personal injury case is proving that your condition would have been materially better if the doctor had begun treatment sooner.

In cancer cases, this can be difficult to prove, as there is a possibility that cancer would have progressed the same way regardless of when treatment started, especially in late-stage cancer treatment.

3. Childbirth Injuries

You spend months preparing for the newest addition to your family. You decorated a nursery, picked out names, and dreamed about what your child would accomplish in the years to come and the person they would grow up to be.

Then, your doctor made a mistake during birth or prenatal care, leading to an injury that will affect your baby for the rest of their life.

One of the most devastating medical malpractice cases for any young family to endure is childbirth injuries. Some of these injuries are minor and can be remedied with treatment, while others have a more severe impact.

Here are some of the most common medical problems associated with medical negligence and childbirth injuries:

  • Improper use of forceps during birth
  • Surgical errors during a Caesarian section
  • Placental abnormalities, such as placental abruption
  • Shoulder dystocia, brachial plexus injuries, or other nerve damage during birth
  • Oxygen deprivation to the baby
  • Hemorrhage of the mother during pregnancy or labor

These injuries place a heavy burden on the parents, both emotional and financial as they try to care for their child.

4. Surgical Errors

Surgical errors are perhaps the most infamous form of medical negligence, even if they aren’t the most common type.

After all, when you undergo extended surgery, you tend to expect that your surgeon is an experienced, capable professional. The prospect of your surgeon making a critical error while you’re on the table is an unfathomable and terrifying notion.

Surgical errors can include a wide variety of possible mistakes, but a few common ones include:

  • Using nonsterile surgical instruments
  • Failure to control bleeding
  • Failure to adequately monitor vital signs during surgery
  • Performing an incorrect procedure
  • Operating on the wrong body part or wrong patient altogether
  • Leaving medical equipment inside a patient
  • Damaging nerves, tissues, or organs during surgery
  • Unsafe procedures during surgery that result in serious harm to the patient
  • Improper care before or after surgery

These errors most often occur when a doctor incorrectly reads a patient chart, neglects to review medical instructions, or clears a patient for the wrong surgery.

Sometimes, these mistakes are minor. But sometimes, they can result in serious consequences for the patient, from lifelong disfigurement and disability to death.

5. Medication Errors

When you go to the doctor, you expect them to have the knowledge and experience necessary to prescribe you the right medication.

But medication errors are far more common than you might think. If any healthcare provider anywhere in the chain makes a mistake, a patient could be administered 100 times too much (or too little) medication…or the wrong medication entirely.

Medication errors can occur in:

  • Choosing a medication (irresponsible or inaccurate prescribing, under or overprescribing, etc.)
  • Writing the prescription (writing the wrong prescription or an illegible prescription)
  • Manufacturing the medication (wrong strength, wrong components, wrong packaging, etc.)
  • Dispensing the medication (wrong drug, wrong strength, wrong formulation, wrong label)
  • Taking the medication (wrong dose, wrong duration, wrong frequency, etc.)
  • Monitoring therapy on the medication

Medication errors can also include failure to consider a patient’s age or medical history when prescribing a medication or failure to account for allergies when prescribing medication.

This may come from any number of factors, from an irresponsible perception of risk to inadequate knowledge of the patient or the drug to poor communication.

Regardless of the type of error or why it was caused, you as a patient deserve to receive proper treatment by your doctor. If your doctor fails and medication causes you serious harm, you may have a malpractice case.

6. Anesthesia Errors

Surgery is a terrifying prospect for most people. What’s scarier, though, is the fact that dangerous mistakes can happen before you ever enter the operating room.

Anesthesia is a risky part of any surgical operation, which is why your surgeon doesn’t administer the anesthetic. Instead, anesthesia is administered by a doctor specifically trained in how to safely administer and monitor anesthesia.

Prior to a procedure requiring anesthesia, an anesthesiologist will review your medical history, medical record, prior medications, allergies, and requirements for the operation, such as time and the procedure in question.

Anesthesia errors can occur at any point in the process, from negligent preparation to failure to inform the patient of safety procedures before an operation to failure to properly monitor the anesthesia during the operation.

In some ways, anesthesia errors can be more dangerous than surgical errors, as it’s far easier for an anesthesia error to cause serious brain damage. And surgery is risky enough without anesthesia errors.

7. Hospital Infections

A hospital is the safest place to be if you’re seriously injured or dangerously ill. It has the equipment and medical staff at hand to handle almost any medical emergency.

But because of this, hospitals are also full of pathogens, from ordinary people moving throughout the facility to harmful pathogens brought in by ill or injured patients. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that intensive care units are among the most common places for patients to acquire hospital-associated infections.

In order to qualify as a hospital infection, the infection must occur:

  • Up to 48 hours after hospital admission
  • Up to three days after discharge
  • Up to 30 days after a surgery
  • In a medical facility which the patient was admitted to for reasons other than the infection

Hospital infections can be caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal pathogens, all of which come together on a regular basis in a hospital. Common types of hospital infections include:

Hospital infections can also include things like gastrointestinal infections, soft-tissue infections, lower respiratory tract infections, cardiovascular infections, and infections of the central nervous system.

Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you read these examples of medical malpractice and found that one of them applied to you or a loved one, don’t wait. Your family deserves to be treated with care and respect, and when your doctor fails, we’re here to fight for your rights.

We’re Chicago medical malpractice attorneys, and we won’t stop until your family gets justice.

If you need to speak with an attorney about your case, click here to get in touch.

Get Your FREE Injury "Cheat Sheet"

Inside, You'll Discover How To:

  • INCREASE Your Chance To WIN Your Injury Case!
  • How To ELIMINATE The Most Common Dirty Trick Insurance Companies Do!
  • Get EVERY DOLLAR The Law Allows!

Best of All,  You Can Download The Injury  "Cheat Sheet" RIGHT NOW and It's 100% Free and No Obligation

Testimonials

"Hiring Scott was one of the best moves I have made in my life.   Scott is a down to earth person and attorney.  Scott is a 5 star first class act who really knows his stuff.   The Judge said his presentation was one of if not the best he had ever seen.   Take my advice, hire Scott. I’m sure you’ll be 200% satisfied.  I was."

Richard Lange

Cab Driver, Fall Down                  See More >

Want The Injury "Cheat Sheet"?

Inside, You'll Discover How To:

  • INCREASE Your Chance To WIN Your Injury Case!
  • How To ELIMINATE The Most Common Dirty Trick Insurance Companies Do!
  • Get EVERY DOLLAR The Law Allows!

Best of All,  You Can Download The Injury  "Cheat Sheet" RIGHT NOW and It's 100% Free and No Obligation