When a patient receives medical treatment, whether for a minor illness or serious injury, he or she trusts that the hospital, physicians, and nurses will provide only the best care possible. The medical industry is governed by countless policies and regulations to avoid any mistakes or unnecessary risks that might endanger a patient’s health. Unfortunately, accidents can happen, and there are not always favorable outcomes. In the event that a medical practitioner causes injury or death of a patient due to negligence or violating medical standards, the patient or surviving family may be entitled to take legal recourse through a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Essentially, medical malpractice occurs when a physician or other medical professional fails to perform his or her duties as a medical practitioner, whether due to carelessness, poor training, or wrongful conduct. In order to have a valid claim, there must be evidence that the doctor failed to use the same reasonable skill and care as any other competent doctor, which resulted in specific harm to the patient.
What are Common Medical Malpractice Cases?
Recklessness or negligence at any level in the medical industry can have serious consequences for the patients who entrust their health to the care and professionalism of the doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff at a facility. The common claims of medical malpractice include:
- Improper Treatment – If a doctor fails to treat a patient or to perform a procedure with reasonable care and skill expected of any competent doctor in the field, the patient may be able to seek compensation in the event of preventable injury, illness, or worse.
- Failure to Warn – Doctors are required to warn patients about the potential risks associated with a course of treatment or procedure in order to obtain informed consent from the patient (or the patient’s guardian) to continue. If the doctor fails to provide adequate warning or to receive informed consent before treatment and the patient suffers injury or illness as a result, the doctor may be liable for damages.
- Failure to Diagnose – When a doctor fails to discover and diagnose a patient’s illness, he or she may be held accountable if another competent doctor would have been able to make the diagnosis.
Before taking action, it is crucial to consult with an attorney who has extensive experience practicing medical malpractice law. A legal representative will not only be able to investigate your claim, but also rely on resources that may not be available to the average person.
Who Can File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
The only parties that may file a medical malpractice claim are the injured patient or the immediate family members or dependents of the patient in question, such as a spouse or children. In the event that the patient is unable to take action, whether due to disability or death, the surviving family may file a suit on behalf of him or her. No matter how serious the circumstances, when faced with a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim, the experience can be overwhelming and intimidating. Protect your right to seek justice and compensation.
Medical Malpractice Resulting in Death
In the medical setting, there is no such thing as a “small” mistake. Even a single slip up can have deadly consequences. This is why physicians and other hospital staff all have the duty to exercise reasonable care when working with patients. Yet, negligent conduct is prevalent in hospitals and medical centers throughout the United States. According to the Institute of Medicine, anywhere between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans are killed every year due to preventable medical errors. Medical malpractice is a veritable epidemic.
Fatal mistakes can occur in any medical procedure and be committed by staff at all levels, from nurses to physicians to administrators. In many cases, an individual does not realize s/he has been a victim of medical malpractice until it is too late. Below are the common types of medical malpractice that lead to death.
Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis
A treatable medical condition can cause irreparable, if not fatal, harm to a patient if it is not correctly diagnosed in a timely manner. While physicians are not expected to maintain a hundred percent accurate diagnosis rate, they are expected to make diagnoses to the best of their training and knowledge, as a qualified physician should. Those who fail in this duty can be held liable for the damages that result from their negligent conduct.
You may have a viable misdiagnosis wrongful death claim if a loved one died because a healthcare provider failed to diagnose and treat the following:
- Heart disease,
- Gastrointestinal disorder,
- Diabetes, or
- Another medical condition.
Since surgeries are often complex procedures with high stakes, surgeons are expected to perform each operation with complete focus and in accordance with their training. Of course, not all surgeries are successful, and some deaths cannot be avoided. However, when a preventable death occurs due to a surgical error, the beneficiaries of the deceased can and should pursue legal action.
Common types of surgical errors include:
- Prolonged procedures
- Improper administration of anesthesia
- Use of an allergen as a medication
- Improper technique
- Damage to internal organs
- Blood clots
- Wrong site or unnecessary surgery
- Misplacement of surgical tools
Negligence in the Emergency Room
Emergency room workers must have the ability to make correct judgments in a quick fashion since delays or errors in this setting can have especially deadly consequences. The following examples of emergency room negligent can become the basis of a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit:
- Lab and paperwork errors
- Wrong medication
- Failure to order necessary tests
- Failure to monitor a patient’s progress
- Delayed treatment
- Lack of communication among medical team members
- Undertrained or inadequate staff
- Failure to admit/premature discharge
Proving a Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Claim
In order to prove a wrongful death claim involving medical malpractice, a causal connection between the negligent actions of the involved medical provider and cause of death must be established. This becomes complicated in cases involving the elderly or patients with underlying medical conditions. An attorney who specializes in medical malpractice can help determine how the medical provider failed in his or her duties, causing the patient’s death.
What Is Loss of Chance?
Massachusetts is just one of several states that have adopted a loss of chance theory. According to this complex legal doctrine, a deceased patient’s beneficiaries may sue a doctor for wrongful death if the doctor committed a mistake, shortening the patient’s life. In other words, as long as the patient had a chance of survival, even if it was a small chance, a court will usually rule that the doctor must pay damages to the claimants.
An example of the loss of chance doctrine in action can clarify its terms and effects.
Imagine a patient who is inflicted with a cancerous growth in his brain stem. If left untreated, the tumor will cause the patient’s death within a week. The patient decides to undergo surgery. Even if the procedure is successful, he only has a 10 percent chance of survival. During the surgery, the doctor commits an error which leads to the patient’s death.
The first question that comes to mind is this: should the patient’s family be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor even though his chances of survival were very slim? According to the loss of chance doctrine, the answer is yes. As slim as it was, the patient had a chance of leading a long and healthy life. Since the surgeon essentially caused the patient’s loss of a substantial chance to survive, s/he owes the patient’s family damages for the latter.
Trusted Medical Malpractice Law Firm
If you believe that you or a loved one may have a valid malpractice case, speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer to gain the insight you need to make an informed decision about your future. An experienced legal team can help you understand your legal rights and options and will be able to act on your behalf to hold the responsible parties accountable. Contact an effective medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to ensure the success of your claim and to recover the compensation you need on your path to recovery.