Medical malpractice is defined as an injury to a patient caused by negligence on the part of a doctor or other medical professional. The negligence may be involving a variety of different issues, including those in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or the management of health.
Legally, malpractice cases must have three characteristics. It must violate the standard of care on the part of the medical professionals, an injury must be directly caused by that negligence, and the injury must result in significant damages.
Standard of Care
The standard of care refers to the standards established by the medical profession that other reasonably prudent medical professionals would be expected to for treating a patient under similar circumstances. Patients have the legal right to expect this level of care, and the failure of medical professionals to provide it can be considered negligent.
Injury Caused by Negligence
The failure of a medical professional to meet the standard of care for a patient must cause an injury that would not otherwise have been caused. For legal purposes, it is not enough to prove that medical professionals didn't conform to the standard of care; a medical malpractice attorney must also demonstrate that the negligence in question caused a serious injury.
Malpractice cases can be very expensive. They often require hours of litigation and the collection of expert and eyewitness testimony. For it to be feasible to press the case, the patient must show substantial injury, or else the cost of pursuing the case could be greater than the recovery of damages. Typically, injuries significant enough to be worth pursuing a malpractice claim are on the order of severe injury, illness, excessive pain, disability, disfigurement or loss of income.
Examples of Malpractice
It is estimated that over 440,000 patients die as a result of preventable medical error every year. Millions more are injured. These cases were caused by such lapses as failure to properly diagnose symptoms, premature discharge, unnecessary surgery or surgical errors, medication error and disregarding patient history. Here, we break down some of the most common instances of medical malpractice:
A doctor may make a diagnosis that was inappropriate for the symptoms presented, or fail to diagnose at all. This can result in an inappropriate treatment or in a failure to administer necessary treatment. Many common and serious ailments such as cancer, heart disease and stroke are commonly misdiagnosed by medical professionals.
Surgical errors are a terrifying form of malpractice. These can include failure to use sterile instruments, performing the wrong procedure or on the wrong body part, damaging the patient's body during surgery or leaving medical equipment inside a patient.
Mismanagement of Medication
Medication errors can be made at many points in a patient's course of treatment. It can consist of the wrong choice of medication, the wrong strength or dosage, or a pharmacist dispensing incorrectly. Medical professionals may also fail to properly consider a patient's age or medical history when prescribing.
Again, these are only a few of the more common types of malpractice. There are many others, from anesthesia errors to childbirth errors and hospital infections. If you believe that you have been the victim of malpractice, schedule a consultation with a medical malpractice attorney who can help discuss your case more in depth.
How to Protect Yourself
There are a number of ways that patients can protect themselves against malpractice. First and foremost, they can educate themselves about their condition. Knowing everything there is to know about their illness and its symptoms, causes, how it develops and what the standard course of treatment is can prepare them for medical visits.
Patients should also take notes when they see their doctors and write down their course of treatment, specifying the dates and times of appointments, names and specializations of medical personnel, and medications and other treatments prescribed. If they notice anything abnormal or unexpected, they should carefully note that as well.
Check to make sure that standard precautions are being taken -- that hospital rooms are being routinely cleaned and equipment sterilized. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Many times, patients are afraid to ask questions regarding their health and safety. They may think, “Well, they’re the doctor.” However, you have every right to understand your health and why a doctor is giving you a specific treatment plan.
Most importantly, if you note anything out of the ordinary, don't hesitate to contact a medical malpractice attorney. The Cincinnati malpractice attorneys at The Moore Law Firm are all too familiar with the stories of patients who fall victim to medical malpractice each year. We will look at the evidence of your case and decide what your options are moving forward.
Don’t wait to act. If you or a loved one was injured due to the negligence of a medical provider, contact The Moore Law Firm at (513) 232-2000 to discuss your potential medical malpractice case.