People facing even minor medical conditions rely on the experience and trustworthy care offered by qualified medical care providers to help their recovery and maintain their quality of life. Quality medical care can help decrease pain, treat illnesses, or support patients with serious medical needs.
Unfortunately, sometimes, medical care providers may not provide the high standard of care that patients need to have the best possible outcomes for their cases.
When does a provider’s error or negligence count as medical malpractice? If you suffer edmedical negligence at the hands of your care provider, contact out Chicago medical malpractice attorneys to learn more about your rights.
The Definition of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a medical care provider commits an act of negligence that leads to less than the usual standard of care for patients who may require medical treatment, leading to increased medical needs or poorer medical outcomes for the patient.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice may take several forms, depending on the type of care provided and the actions taken or not taken by the medical care provider.
Never events involve some of the most devastating acts of medical malpractice. These events include things that should never happen.
Never events may include, for example:
- Major medication errors
- Performing surgery on the wrong body part
- Giving a patient the wrong type of blood
- Leaving an item behind during surgery
- Preventable deaths that occur due to errors during surgery
A doctor may commit a never event error for various reasons, including inadequate sleep or supervision. However, never events often lead to incredibly detrimental patient outcomes, which may result in lifelong disability or death.
During childbirth, both mother and child face an intense period of vulnerability. Errors and trauma in childbirth, from failure to adequately monitor mother and child to instituting medical interventions that lead to serious injury, can cause immense problems that may linger for the rest of the child’s life. Children can develop various adverse conditions due to oxygen deprivation in the time leading up to birth.
During childbirth, doctors and nurses must work together to provide a high standard of care for the patients in that vulnerable state. If a doctor fails to listen to a patient’s needs or carefully observe the patient for any signs of distress, it could lead to an increased risk of injury or death, for which the doctor might bear liability.
Failure to Diagnose
Sometimes, a care provider may have a clear look at the patient’s symptoms and the challenges the patient has faced. A patient’s clinical presentation might lead to an obvious diagnosis. Unfortunately, the care provider may fail to adequately diagnose the patient’s condition despite those apparent symptoms.
When a care provider does not diagnose a patient properly, the patient may not receive the care needed to recover from that ailment or injury. As a result, the patient may continue to experience the same symptoms or experience worsening symptoms. Often, those symptoms can substantially negatively impact the patient’s overall quality of life. Failure to diagnose may eventually, in some cases, lead to the patient’s death.
A misdiagnosis occurs when a patient presents with a clear list of symptoms that should correspond to a specific ailment, but the care provider diagnoses another ailment instead. Due to a misdiagnosis, the patient might not receive treatment for the ailment the patient has and may receive treatment for an entirely unrelated condition.
Often, the treatment for that unrelated condition will have side effects or potential complications, which could cause a decrease in the patient’s overall quality of life. Meanwhile, symptoms of the original ailment may remain untreated, which may cause substantial distress for the patient.
Failure to Treat
Once a doctor sees a patient’s challenges, the doctor will need to work with the patient to devise a treatment plan. That may mean passing the patient on to another provider, including a specialist. However, in other cases, it may mean that the doctor needs to provide that treatment directly.
Failure to treat the condition or injury may cause the patient to experience continuing or worsening symptoms, which can cause a devastating decrease in the patient’s quality of life. Doctors may more often fail to treat conditions like chronic pain. Women and minorities may also have more trouble receiving the standard of treatment they may deserve for their ailments.
Failure to Inform
As a patient, you have the right to know what type of medical treatment you will receive and what potential side effects that treatment might have. In some cases, you might decide not to move forward with a specific procedure due to the potential side effects of that procedure.
For example, if you know that a surgery has a high failure rate that might not touch ongoing pain or that could make ongoing pain worse, you might choose not to undergo that procedure.
As a patient, you even have the right to make bad decisions: the decision, for example, to entirely forego care for a specific type of condition because you do not want to have to live with the side effects.
To make those decisions, however, you must have a solid understanding of the treatment you plan to undergo and that treatment’s potential side effects. A doctor who fails to inform you about those potential complications may have committed medical malpractice.
Medications to treat many conditions require a careful balance.
Doctors must carefully prescribe medications:
- Intended to treat the conditions you have
- In the right quantities to provide adequate treatment while minimizing side effects
- That you do not have any known allergies to
- That do not interact negatively with known medications you already take
A doctor who fails to do due diligence when prescribing medication, including prescribing a dangerous dose of medication or a medication you are allergic to, may bear liability for any injuries you sustain because of those errors.
Medication errors may also occur in hospitals when busy nurses may not take the time to double-check the medications prescribed by the doctor or could accidentally draw up the wrong dose of the medication.
Medical Device Errors
When you pursue medical treatment, you may need the support of a medical device to help improve your overall quality of life or help you maintain function. Unfortunately, some medical devices may not provide the support you hoped for. Instead, those devices could cause errors that could decrease your quality of life or lifespan.
For example, metal-on-metal joint replacements, used for several years in many facilities across the country, could wear down over time, leading to metal deposits in the body and, ultimately, to metal poisoning. Medical devices could also fail sooner than expected, require further replacement, or could cause injury to the patient due to a malfunction.
In the case of medical device errors, the manufacturer of those medical devices may bear liability.
When Does a Care Provider’s Error Constitute Medical Malpractice?
As a patient, you may expect a high standard of care from your medical care provider regardless of when and where you pursue treatment.
If you experience substandard treatment, does it always constitute medical malpractice? Not necessarily. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor commits an act of negligence in treatment that causes detrimental outcomes to the patient.
A lawyer may ask several key questions to determine whether you have suffered medical malpractice.
Did you have a doctor/patient relationship with the medical care provider?
To file a medical malpractice claim, you must establish you had a doctor/patient relationship with the care provider. That does not just mean that you do not have grounds for a claim if, for example, you ask for a diagnosis from a doctor on the street, and the doctor fails to provide a reasonable care plan. It also means that you may not have grounds for a claim against care providers who may have consulted on your case, but who did not bear ultimate responsibility for your diagnosis and treatment.
Suppose, for example, that your doctor works with several other doctors. You typically see only a single provider from that practice and do not typically see the others. Even though you may know that the doctors often consult on each other’s cases, you would generally file a malpractice claim against only the care provider who actually saw you during treatment.
Would another care provider, under the same circumstances, have made a similar diagnosis or decision?
Suppose, for example, you presented a specific list of symptoms to your doctor. Those symptoms could indicate two different diagnoses, but your doctor chose the one that most seemed to fit your symptoms. Because the symptoms fit the diagnosis, your doctor may not have committed a negligent act. Rather, your doctor may have acted on the information available and provided a diagnosis based on those criteria.
On the other hand, if you reported a specific set of symptoms to your doctor that clearly fit a known diagnosis, but your doctor diagnosed something else entirely, the doctor may have committed an act of malpractice in negligently diagnosing you.
Did the care provider’s negligence harm your health or finances?
To show that you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim, you must show that the care provider’s negligence harmed you—that the care provider’s negligence caused you to suffer additional pain, face additional costs, or deteriorate physically—since you did not receive needed treatment for your ailment. In many cases, medical negligence can lead to substantial suffering for the victim. In other cases, however, medical negligence may not lead to negative outcomes.
Suppose, for example, that a care provider negligently prescribed a medication to which you have a known allergy. At the pharmacy, the pharmacist, who has those records in place, notices the problem and warns you, so you never take the medication. Since you never experienced a negative reaction, you would not need to file a medical malpractice claim.
Likewise, suppose that a doctor misdiagnosed an infection. The doctor might have thought you had one type of infection, but on further examination, you discovered you had a different infection. The doctor may have prescribed antibiotics that took care of both challenges, so you did not suffer negative outcomes for the misdiagnosis error. As a result, you would not need to file a medical malpractice claim.
On the other hand, if you did take the medication and suffered severe side effects, including a life-threatening allergic reaction, you would have the right to file a medical malpractice claim. Suppose your doctor’s misdiagnosis caused you to suffer additional complications from your infection, including the potential need for hospitalization, increased care, or decreased overall quality of life. In that case, you may have the right to pursue a medical malpractice claim against your care provider.
Contact a Lawyer if You Suffered Medical Malpractice
If you suffered a detrimental outcome due to the negligence of a medical care provider, working with a lawyer on your medical malpractice claim can be critical. Medical malpractice claims can become difficult since you may need a medical expert to testify about the negligent actions of your care provider. Not only that, you may have to go through a lengthy process to establish your right to a medical malpractice claim than a typical injury claim.
A medical malpractice lawyer can navigate the complicated claim process for you and calculate the compensation you deserve.
Did you suffer medical negligence at the hands of your care provider? Contact a medical malpractice attorney to learn more about your rights.