When we think of medical malpractice, we often jump to examples from TV and movies. We think about a nicked artery during surgery or a missing sponge in the operating room. Medical malpractice is much more than that; it describes medical errors of all kinds, not just the most severe or dramatic.
When a patient receives improper healthcare, their very lives are at risk. That’s why it’s important to identify the most common types of medical malpractice before they occur. When you’re aware of the different kinds of medical malpractice, you’re more likely to notice them early on.
With that in mind, the most common types of medical malpractice are,
Imagine coming into the doctor’s office with a sharp stomach ache, and before you know it, you’re on the operating table about to have your healthy appendix removed. Medical malpractice by misdiagnosis is surprisingly common.
More than 12 million Americans, nearly 1 in 20 adults, are misdiagnosed every year. A 5% margin of error is enormous when lives are on the line. Moreover, misdiagnosis is perhaps the most important form of medical malpractice to catch early on. A misdiagnosis opens the door for medication errors, anesthetic errors, and surgical errors.
2. Medication Errors
Sadly, medication errors are the seventh most common cause of death in the United States. Practicing medicine is complex. A misdiagnosis or an improper dose could mean addiction, pain, organ failure, or even death.
Every prescription must match someone’s size and preexisting conditions. Some medications are even more precise and require strict monitoring of the heart rate or blood. Likewise, allergens are a serious consideration. A medication error could result in someone having an adverse reaction or even going into shock.
There are many steps medical professionals can take to ensure their patients have a positive reaction to their medication. They can run an allergen test. They can order blood work before writing a prescription. The problem arises when doctors fail to take the proper precautions or prescribe too much medication.
3. Anesthetic Errors
While anesthetic error is technically a kind of medication error, it is prevalent enough to deserve a separate category. In a survey of nearly 700 anesthesiologists, 80% said they have made an anesthetic error. Of those, the vast majority were minor, but some errors resulted in severe complications, including death.
One of the most common causes of anesthetic error is a “syringe swap,” when specialists administer the wrong drug. An anesthesiologist might reach into his pocket, find two syringes, one with a muscle relaxant and the other with the reversal agent. He injects the patient without looking. Instead of coming out of sedation, the patient is now overmedicated and at risk of addiction or even overdose.
4. Surgical Errors
These are the errors that always show up in TV and movies. They are the most dramatic forms of medical malpractice and with good reason. When we think of surgical errors, our minds go to a million worst-case scenarios.
Before the operation begins, doctors may fail to obtain consent or might even schedule the wrong surgery. During the operation, surgeons might cause unnecessary damage or even lose track of their tools. After the operation, an improper procedure could lead to scarring, deformities, infection, or even death.
5. Birth Injuries
There’s no easy way to talk about birth injuries. They are the worst thing an expecting parent can experience on what should be the happiest day of their lives. Our hearts go out to anyone whose family has been affected by birth injuries.
There are many types of birth injuries. Breech births often result in broken bones. Overly forceful pulling, especially with forceps, can result in paralysis and spinal damage. In some cases, improper delivery methods might cause brain damage, which can result in cerebral palsy and cognitive disabilities.
While it’s often difficult to address the consequences of medical malpractice, it’s important to stay informed and know your options. If you or someone you love have experienced medical malpractice, make sure you contact an attorney.