It is widely known that doctors and other medical professionals can make serious errors due to negligence. What is less known is how those errors permanently impact the victims of malpractice. These victims are forced to deal with the emotional and physical consequences of the injuries that doctors cause. Those effects commonly impact the rest of their lives.
Despite the life-changing outcomes, some malpractice victims don’t seek compensation. Many patients simply are not sure if medical malpractice occurred in their specific situation. People mistakenly believe that errors can just happen in a hospital, so no one is responsible for that. Other victims wait too long to consult a lawyer, and the statute of limitations expires. In Arizona, the statute of limitations on medical malpractice is two years from when the person knew or should have known of the injuries to put him/her on notice to investigate what caused the injuries. This deadline can often be confusing, as doctors may tell the patient that his/her outcome is expected and normal, when, in fact, it is not.
Due to the serious consequences and the limited time frame for filing a lawsuit, victims should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as quickly as possible. If you or someone you love may have suffered medical malpractice, consult the list of common errors provided below. It provides information about six of the most common types of medical malpractice errors to help you determine if you have a case.
Many malpractice cases qualify as misdiagnosis. The doctor examines the patient but fails to diagnose the correct illness. The doctor may incorrectly say the patient has no discernible illness, or the doctor may diagnose the patient with a condition he or she does not have.
Misdiagnosis counts as malpractice because it prevents the patient from receiving necessary treatment. Conversely, in healthy patients who are wrongly diagnosed, the patients receive treatment they don’t need.
However, not all incorrect diagnoses qualify as malpractice. Malpractice only occurs if the doctor failed to do what other doctors would do in a similar treatment situation and the patient was harmed as a result.
2. Delayed Diagnosis
This form of malpractice is similar to misdiagnosis. In delayed diagnosis situations, the doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis at first but the patient does eventually receive the correct, accurate diagnosis. The delay in diagnosis allows the condition to become worse because the patient does not receive the necessary treatment.
For a case to qualify as delayed diagnosis, the doctor must have assessed the patient less competently than other doctors would have. For example, the doctor may not have ordered a necessary test that would have led to the correct diagnosis. Or the doctor may have failed to see signs of a disease on X-rays or CT scans.
3. Failure to Treat
Sometimes a doctor arrives at the right diagnosis but fails to recommend adequate treatment. Those situations may constitute malpractice known as failure to treat.
Failure-to-treat situations tend to occur when doctors are treating too many patients. This has become known as “putting profits over safety.” Consequently, the doctors are not diligent about treating all patients with the basic standard of care. They might release a patient too soon, fail to offer follow-up care, or neglect to refer the patient to a specialist.
4. Surgical Errors
Examples of surgical errors that may constitute malpractice include:
- Performing the incorrect procedure
- Performing unnecessary surgery
- Damaging organs, nerves, or tissues during surgery
- Administering an incorrect amount of anesthesia
- Using non-sterile surgical instruments
- Leaving medical equipment inside the patient
- Providing inadequate care after surgery
Surgical errors can have significant effects on a patient’s quality of life. There is a common misperception that because the patient signed a consent form acknowledging the risks of intraoperative complications or even death the patient should not be able to sue for his/her injuries. Not only is this incorrect under Arizona law, it is also not a fair argument. Simply because a doctor tells the patient that he or she can die during a foot operation does not mean that the doctor can administer the wrong amount of anesthesia causing death, or, to be extreme, perform a different surgery altogether leading to the patient’s death.
5. Birth Injury
Birth injuries are among the most devastating types of medical malpractice. Expecting parents joyfully look forward to adding a new child to their family. They prepare the child’s nursery, they spend hours discussing what the baby will grow up to be, and they plan for every detail they can. They cannot, however, plan for the unexpected outcome of a birth injury caused by the doctor or healthcare provider’s negligence. In some cases, these birth injuries can even result in the death of the baby or the mother.
Birth injury malpractice may occur in many forms. The obstetrician’s prenatal care may have been inadequate, even though the mother sought treatment to ensure her own health and her unborn baby’s health. Negligence can also occur during childbirth, leading to birth injuries to mom or baby. If those injuries were preventable, medical malpractice likely took place. Birth injuries often result in the need for lifelong medical care, which can cost several million dollars.
6. Medical Product Liability
Medical professionals are not the only ones liable in certain malpractice cases. Some patients suffer unnecessarily because a medical device used on them was poorly designed.
When faulty medical devices do not work as promised, they could injure the patients who received them. For example, some filters, known as IVC filters, which are intended to prevent blood clots can break, travel through the bloodstream, and cause serious injury or death. In other cases, a patient’s medical condition may get worse because the device doesn’t provide the promised health benefits.
Unfortunately, faulty medical devices often injure many patients before the defects are discovered. If the manufacturer knew or should have known of the defect, they are liable to the victims.
If your medical treatment sounds similar to one of the descriptions above, consult a law firm that specializes in malpractice. Their attorneys can examine the facts of your case and determine whether malpractice occurred.
Keep in mind that the list above is not comprehensive. Some medical malpractice cases don’t neatly fit into these common categories. You can and should consult a malpractice lawyer if you suspect your doctor was negligent in any way.