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What Counts as Medical Malpractice?

There’s a reason that medical settings are so commonly used in horror movies. The idea that a physician could harm you is a very real fear for many people. Unfortunately, it’s also a common problem in real life. While real healthcare professionals aren’t likely to act like protagonists of a horror franchise, they can and do make fatal mistakes.

That’s why medical malpractice has its own field of law. When medical professionals make errors, the consequences can be lifelong health problems or even death. Here’s what you need to know about malpractice, common types of healthcare mistakes, and what to do if you’ve suffered from a physician’s mistakes.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

The basic definition of medical malpractice is a healthcare worker or institution causing harm to a patient by violating a standard of care. Healthcare workers include doctors, nurses, surgeons, and anyone else responsible for medical care. Similarly, healthcare institutions include hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other licensed medical facilities.

These people and organizations are expected to have your best interests at heart. You trust them with your health and even your life. The entire purpose of the medical industry is to help you heal and recover from conditions, or at least find a better quality of life if an illness is incurable.

Of course, no matter how careful a doctor is when treating patients, some people will get sicker or die. That’s why medical malpractice isn’t defined as just harming a patient. Instead, it takes place when healthcare practitioners don’t meet the standards of care for their field.

Every field has different standards of care, but the basics are similar. Clinical practice guidelines collected by the National Guideline Clearinghouse explain standards for many areas. Typical standards include performing surgery with sterile tools, ensuring patients receive adequate pain control during and after painful procedures or injuries, acknowledging patient symptoms, and performing tests to ensure accurate diagnoses.

Types of Medical Malpractice

There are many kinds of healthcare errors. Anything done by a healthcare professional that harms you while failing to meet professional standards of care is considered malpractice. However, some types of mistakes are more common than others. Here are a few of the most common types of medical malpractice that you may have suffered from.

Physician Mistakes

You trust your doctor to have your best interests at heart. However, physicians are human, just like anyone else, and they can make mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes can have lifelong consequences for your health.

Examples of physician malpractice include failing to order tests based on specific symptoms, dismissing test results or patient-reported symptoms, failing to follow up with patients, and failing to share relevant information with your other healthcare providers. These are all instances of your physician failing to meet accepted standards of practice.

Failure to Diagnose

A specific kind of physician malpractice is failure to diagnose. Diagnosing health conditions is a science, and part of the scientific process is testing different hypotheses. However, some problems, like cancer, heart attacks, and strokes, are so dangerous and require such fast treatment that there’s no time for wrong guesses.

As such, healthcare professionals should always test for these conditions first before trying other diagnoses (or worse, dismissing the patient). If a medical professional fails to diagnose these conditions in a timely manner, they may be committing malpractice.

Pharmacy Errors

Medication is vital to managing conditions from diabetes to cancer. However, most medication needs to be prescribed carefully to avoid risks like overdoses, allergic responses, drug interactions, and more. If a doctor or pharmacy prescribes or fills an inaccurate or unsafe prescription, it’s often worse than if the patient receives no treatment at all.

Pharmacy error malpractice can be caused by a physician or by the pharmacy itself. A physician may prescribe dangerous medication because they didn’t read your medical chart or history thoroughly. On the other hand, a pharmacist can commit malpractice by filling an obviously unsafe prescription or by filling a prescription incorrectly.

Emergency Room Malpractice

If you’re visiting the emergency room, you believe something has gone horribly wrong. Healthcare providers at the ER are trained to recognize medical emergencies and triage people to first treat the most dangerous problems. If they fail to recognize or correctly treat your health emergency, they may be committing malpractice.

For example, say you go to the ER with a stroke. This is one of the most common conditions that ER nurses and physicians should recognize and treat. If you’re turned away and suffer long-lasting effects from the stroke that could have been prevented with treatment, then you’ve been a victim of ER malpractice.

Birth Injuries

Even in the best circumstances, giving birth is hard on mothers and babies alike. If one of your medical providers is negligent, it can quickly become dangerous and even deadly. Your baby can struggle with birth injuries for the rest of their life. A birth injury is a wound your child suffers because of complications or neglect during labor.

Common types of birth injuries include cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, and brain injuries. All of these are often caused by mistakes made by doctors and nurses during labor. If your baby is suffering from any of these conditions, you should consider whether a doctor’s mistake plays a role.

Other common healthcare errors include:

  • Radiology errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Surgical injuries
  • Nursing errors
  • Laboratory errors
  • Shoulder dystocia

Medical Malpractice Shouldn’t Be Dismissed

Doctors and other healthcare workers are fallible. However, they’re expected to take precautions to make as few mistakes as possible. If a medical practitioner has made a mistake or neglected your care, they’re not living up to their responsibilities. If you’ve been harmed by your healthcare team, you deserve to hold them accountable for their actions.

The first step is to reach out to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. These cases require a specific kind of expertise that only a specialist can provide. Reach out to schedule your consultation today and learn how the right attorney can help you fight your case the right way.

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