Medical malpractice is often associated with the dramatic scenarios of hospital dramas, whether it’s a drunk doctor amputating the wrong limb or a fraudulent practitioner blundering their way through a complicated surgery. However, in real life, medical malpractice is often a much more subtle and difficult-to-detect type of error. In fact, unless you’re a medical professional, you may not even know that a care provider has acted negligently in your care. One type of mistake makes up a significant portion of malpractice cases.
The Core Cause of Many Malpractice Cases
Malpractice is a huge source of legal expenses for clinics and hospitals, and consequently, a substantial amount of funding goes into research that uncovers the causes of malpractice. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine conducted a study analyzing the root causes of many cases, and they discovered that one-third of errors occur due to misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis.
There are a number of reasons that missed or incorrect diagnoses are so common. A missed diagnosis is often traced back to an overworked physician who either failed to run the correct tests or did not properly interpret a patient’s symptoms and test results. In other situations, an inexperienced doctor may be unsure about their diagnostic skills or worry about recommending unnecessary treatment. Taking a “wait and see” approach to medicine may make sense in some situations, but in others, it can have harmful or even fatal consequences.
A misdiagnosis, much like a missed diagnosis, often occurs because a care provider does not fully analyze available evidence. Patients who see multiple specialists may be at higher risk, since each specialist may not fully review other specialists’ notes before making a diagnosis.
Within this area of medical malpractice, the majority of cases can be further traced to three areas of medicine: cancer treatment, vascular events, and infections.
Expenses Associated with Malpractice
Upon exploring the medical specialties most prone to misdiagnosis, it’s easy to see why the expenses of a medical malpractice case can be staggeringly high. In all three types of cases—cancer, vascular, and infection—a missed diagnosis allows the disease or event to become significantly worse. As a result, treatment costs may be higher or a disease may progress to the point that it can no longer treated. Vascular events, for example, require a near-immediate response to protect a patient’s life and mobility. An untreated infection can lead to sepsis and ultimately death. If a doctor misses a cancer diagnosis, the cancer may spread rapidly enough that treatment is unlikely to succeed.
Successful medical malpractice cases often yield high settlements or judgments. Victims may be entitled to any money they paid the neglectful care practitioner, as well as any medical expenses resulting from health issues caused by the initial error. Victims may also receive money for lost income, lost future income, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and long-term care.
Legal Options for Victims of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is an area of law that relies heavily on details and documentation. Poor care isn’t automatically negligent; an event must meet specific parameters to qualify as medical malpractice. Typically, the injured party must prove that the care provider acted in a way contrary to what any other similarly-trained provider would do in the same situation. Furthermore, laws regarding medical malpractice payouts vary quite a bit from state to state. If someone suspects that they or their loved one has been victimized by a negligent or malicious healthcare provider, it’s crucial to seek legal advice promptly, as the statute of limitations varies between states.