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Medical malpractice

Medical malpractice

Medical malpractice is generally described as sub-standard treatment from a doctor or any healthcare professional which ultimately results in physical, mental and/or economic damage to a patient. Care that is sub-standard refers to any care that goes against or abuses normal medical practise. There are therefore three factors which have to be present in proving medical malpractice. These are the liability, the damages, as well as a direct underlying link.

In the case of liability, it first has to be verified that there was a professional relationship that existed between a healthcare provider and the patient. This is hardly ever a problem. However, proving that the care was substandard could be difficult as it will depend on the degree of the violation. Care that is inadequate does not always signify malpractice. Suffering, injury or economic damage has to be present and has to be a direct consequence of negligence. There are inherent risks with any type of medical care, particularly surgery, even with the proper care. Bad outcomes alone are not the basis for malpractice. Negligence has to be proven in each case.

Different Types of Medical Malpractice

There are different types of medical malpractice. A few examples are a miscalculation with anaesthesia, delivery room or prenatal errors, failure in providing the correct follow-up care, surgical errors, errors with medication, and failure to diagnose life threatening diseases. It could be more complicated to file medical malpractice suits against hospital employees than against the private practitioner. Sometimes, private contractors will provide selected members of hospital staff. In this instance the contractor and negligent party will be named in a suit instead of the hospital. There are exceptions to the rule, for example when the hospital has been warned re an employee.

By limiting medical care so as to avoid any Ďunnecessaryí expenses, a health maintenance organisation or HMO is frequently targeted for negligence if their refusal of adequate care results in death or serious injury. It is a complicated task though, in winning any case against HMOs. Many factors will come to the fore here. This includes whether a health insurance is offered through employees or if it is private.

What are Class Action Suits?

When a negligent party has affected multiple parties, it will be easier to file class action suits against the negligent party. A class action suit can name numerous plaintiffs. Any awards that are granted from successful suits are given to all of the plaintiffs, once the court costs and legal parties have been paid. Medical battery is different to medical malpractice, and is the deliberate violation of the patientís rights in directing their own care by refusing treatment. This is either through a healthcare proxy or advance decree.

Instances of Medical Malpractice

A doctor must ensure that all of his patients receive the medical treatments that are necessary in maintaining optimal health. However, when the care is below standard and not maintained, then medical malpractice could occur. Here are some examples:
  • Injury while undergoing surgery: A woman goes in for surgery to have her inflamed appendix removed. However, during her operation, one of the surgical instruments nicks her urethra. The urethra is a duct that carries urine to the bladder. One week after surgery this woman is readmitted into the hospital, and tests confirm that urine has leaked into the abdomen from her cut urethra. Because of this, she has to undergo several surgeries to sort the problem out.

  • Misdiagnosis of DVT or deep vein thrombosis: A man visits the hospital complaining that his leg is swollen and painful. A doctor mistakenly misdiagnoses his symptoms and says it is a strained muscle. Because of the misdiagnosis, the man dies after having a pulmonary embolism.

  • Late Diagnosis of a Coronary Artery Disease in the Emergency Room: A man complains of chest pains after going to an emergency room. The doctor who is on duty sends him home after failing to properly diagnose CAD and the possibility of a heart attack. Later at home, the man has a heart attack and dies.

  • Misdiagnosis of Cancer: A woman is at her doctor for an annual check-up. The doctor is aware of a small lump within the womanís breast. After quickly looking over her family medical history, he decides that it probably isnít cancer because there has been no cancer in her family. No more tests are done. This will prove to be a very serious error: he has failed in diagnosing cancer. A year later, she is diagnosed with cancer and loses her breast.

  • No Follow-Up Treatments: A man sees his doctor for a check-up. The doctor finds high levels of iron in the manís blood. On the doctorís orders, the man has to come in every week to remove blood so as to lower the level of iron. As has been told, the man duly comes in each week for the nurse to draw blood. However, the doctor does not follow up on the manís progress. The man carries on coming to the doctorís surgery and has his blood drawn for the next six months. By the end of these six months, the immune system of this man is damaged nearly beyond repair. He starts to suffer constant fatigue and severe illnesses and complains to the doctor. The doctor admits that his blood should have only been drawn for a couple of weeks.
In short, medical malpractice will usually result in suffering and pain for a victim, during a medical procedure, and while convalescing. In extreme cases, the psychological suffering and physical pain can continue on for years and adversely impact the quality of life for the patient. In extreme circumstances a patient could also die because of medical malpractice. Death will be more common in the elderly, infants, and pregnant women, as well as in patients who require specialized treatment. Medical malpractice could affect the patientís ability to live independently, work, and to function within the social roles that they used to enjoy. Because of this, the family and spouse of the victim could experience financial problems.

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