Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
Perhaps the most common type of medical malpractice claim is a missed diagnosis. More specifically, delays in the diagnosis of breast cancer has historically cost insurers more than any other type of claim. Postmenopausal women come in for breast exams with great frequency, and for various reasons doctors often miss the diagnosis. Doctors tend to see a huge number of exams, and most of the exams do not diagnose cancer. So it seems that too often some doctors will err on the side of not diagnosing cancer, and the lost opportunity of an early diagnosis can greatly harm a breast cancer victim’s ability to survive the disease.
Surgery is another place where a lot of malpractice happens. Obviously, any time a patient goes in for surgery there is a risk. Something must be wrong or else surgery would not be happening, and when you cut into somebody there is a chance something else will go wrong. Having a bad surgical outcome is not necessarily malpractice. There are, however, a shocking number of mistakes that can never be excused. So-called “wrong-site surgeries” are one of the worst. This is when a hospital has some kind of mixup and the surgeon operates on the wrong body part, like the left hand instead of the right. Evidence suggests that one in five hand surgeons will make this mistake at some point in their career.
Medical malpractice is also common in childbirth. For starters, there are a lot of births in America. Most women will have a child at some point in their lives, and many babies are hurt during childbirth. There is obviously a high risk of injury to a newborn, because babies are very fragile and a birth is a traumatic event. Doctors also often have to make painful but life-saving decisions in order to protect the baby’s overall health. For example, doctors sometimes have to use scary instruments like forceps to pull a baby through the birth canal. That can injure the baby but still be the medically correct thing to do. On the other hand, it is probably malpractice for a doctor to yank a baby out so hard as to cause nerve damage just because that doctor has a busy schedule and needs to get to the next patient.
The bottom line is that a medical professional must meet the proper standard of care, which just means a doctor must show the skill and care that an average doctor would in the same situation. Doctors do not have to be perfect, but they cannot be incompetent. Even if a doctor is incompetent, he or she will usually only be held liable if that incompetence caused some harm. A missed diagnosis of breast cancer may not actually cause an injury if another doctor catches it soon afterwards, for example.
In 2004, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations issued rules meant to reduce such surgical errors as:
- Amputating the wrong body part
- Performing the wrong procedure
- Operating on the wrong patient
Despite the increased awareness of surgical errors and these efforts to reduce their incidence, the rate of wrong-site surgeries has increased, according to a story published jointly by the Washington Post and Kaiser Health News.
Misdiagnosis by Doctor or Health Care Professional
When you’re sick, the first step toward getting better is figuring out what’s wrong. When a doctor misdiagnoses an illness, a patient not only loses the opportunity to heal quickly but also runs the risk of complications and even death. After all, the best treatment regimen in the world is not going to help if it is the wrong treatment.
Incident of Misdiagnosis
In one study conducted by the Institute of Medicine, incorrect diagnoses accounted for 17 percent of medical errors – and in a survey performed by the National Patient Safety Foundation, 40 percent of respondents believed that their illnesses had been misdiagnosed.
Under the law, physicians and other health care professionals owe a duty of care to their patients. This means that the professional must act in a reasonable manner consistent with that of a medical professional of the same training who receives the same information about the patient. A doctor who acts unreasonably on the basis of the information provided may be sued for medical malpractice.
What is considered a wrong diagnosis?
Misdiagnoses involve a variety of scenarios:
- Diagnosing a disease or disorder in a healthy person. This error may result in unnecessary or even harmful treatment.
- Failing to diagnose a disease or disorder in someone who is sick. In some instances individuals with cancer have been told that they’re healthy, allowing the disease to advance untreated and unchecked until it’s at an advanced stage.
- Diagnosing the wrong disease in someone who is sick. A classic example is a woman experiencing a heart attack who is told that she is simply suffering from heartburn or indigestion.
What are some of the most commonly misdiagnosed diseases?
Several medical conditions are often missed or misdiagnosed:
- Bacterial meningitis
- Breast cancer
- Heart attack
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Pulmonary embolism
How can you protect yourself from an incorrect diagnosis?
Patients rely on the expertise of their physicians, but even without a medical background patients can take certain measures to protect themselves from a misdiagnosis.
- Ask Questions. Once a doctor provides a diagnosis, ask what other diseases are possible in light of your symptoms. This will allow you to conduct additional research after an appointment.
- Get a Second Opinion. This is important if you have been told that you are healthy but still feel there is something wrong or if you have received a diagnosis that will involve extensive treatment.
- See a Specialist. If a general practitioner provides a diagnosis, you may want to seek a second opinion from a specialist who is better able to determine whether your symptoms match the diagnosis. A specialist can also provide additional information on your treatment options.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Missouri
The time allowed under Missouri law to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is limited. Generally a medical malpractice case must be filed within two years of the date of occurrence. If the medical negligence claim involves a foreign object that was left in the body, the suit must be filed within two years of when the object was discovered.
If a loved one dies as a result of medical malpractice, Missouri law requires that the wrongful death lawsuit be filed within three years of the death.
Within 90 days of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Missouri, the plaintiff must file an expert affidavit stating that a written opinion has been obtained from a legally qualified healthcare provider regarding the defendant’s negligence. The expert must conclude that the defendant failed to use such care as a reasonably prudent and careful healthcare provider would have under similar circumstances and that such failure to use such reasonable care directly caused or directly contributed to cause the damages claimed in the petition (RSMo. Section 538.225 ).
More About Medical Malpractice Lawyers in St. Louis, MO
Christopher R. Dixon and the Dixon Injury Firm excel at medical malpractice cases and additional personal and workplace injuries. Recognized by the National Trial Lawyers Association as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer, Chris understands how difficult these types of cases are for families. To help alleviate financial stress, Dixon Injury Firm make it easier by offering a contingency payment system. This allows you to pay only if the case is won. Dixon's legal counsel is free until then.
Compensation available in medical malpractice lawsuits is often divided into compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages typically cover such items as past and future medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are awarded in cases in which the defendant’s conduct is considered willful, wanton or malicious.
Our St. Louis medical malpractice lawyers offer free consultations to all injury victims and the families of those wrongfully killed. To discuss your case, contact Chris Dixon as soon possible to prevent evidence from being lost or destroyed. Our personal injury lawyers are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 314-409-7060, or Toll-Free at 855-402-7274.