Medical malpractice is far more common than many people assume. A 2016 study from Johns Hopkins Medicine determined that medical errors were the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. The study calculated that almost 10% of all deaths in the U.S. stemmed from a medical error.
Notably, the study only looked at fatal incidents, and did not estimate the number of patients injured or left with life-altering changes due to medical error. The study was also limited to analyzing inpatient hospitalization data.
Since the frequency of medical errors is higher than thought, it’s helpful to know about the most common categories of medical malpractice.
A misdiagnosis is problematic because it can start you down a path of incorrect or unnecessary treatment that won’t help you and could ultimately end up harming you. At the same time, the treatment you actually need to heal or address your condition is not being provided.
2: Delayed diagnosis
A delay in diagnosis, which implies that the correct one is eventually made, can cause permanent injuries, and it can also be fatal. There are many diseases and conditions that require prompt treatment if recovery is to be achieved.
Certain aggressive types of cancer, for instance, are best treated as early as possible. A less lethal example would be promptly identifying an infection so that it can be treated before it worsens. A delayed diagnosis often goes hand in hand with the first category: misdiagnosis.
3: Surgical errors
Mistakes made by surgeons, or their teams, can have dire ramifications for a patient. Examples include wrong-site surgery or operating on the wrong patient. In some cases, surgical teams will also leave items – foreign objects – within the body, which are retained after the surgery. This can lead to a variety of complications, including infections.
4: Birth injuries
Expecting mothers who go to the hospital plan to be assisted by a doctor. But a doctor’s mistakes could cause permanent damage to a newborn. For instance, if the baby’s oxygen levels are not properly monitored during labor and drop too low for too long, the baby could suffer brain damage and develop cerebral palsy.
What can you do after medical malpractice?
If you have experienced one of these types of malpractice, whether it was while you were receiving care from your primary care doctor or perhaps more advanced care from staff at a hospital, make sure you know all about your legal options to seek fair compensation.