There are many different types of medical negligence, and no two cases are ever the same. Given the complex nature of the practice of medicine, it is no surprise that even the smallest mistake by a doctor can have life-altering (even life-ending) effects on his or her patients.
Medical negligence can take place in any medical situation, from a visit to the dentist, an emergency room situation, a regular health check up, or a high risk surgical procedure. Below are some of the more common categories of medical negligence.
The first step after admittance to a hospital, medical clinic, emergency room, dental office or any other professional medical establishment is diagnosis. Correctly diagnosing symptoms is critical.
Common types of misdiagnosis include:
- Failure to Diagnose Cancer
- Misdiagnosis of Symptoms of Impending Heart Attack
- Misdiagnosis of Stroke
- Failure to Recognize DVT and Pulmonary Embolism
- Misdiagnosis of Diabetes
- Failure to Recognize Meningitis
- Failure to Diagnose Appendicitis
If a patient is not treated properly due to a mistake in diagnosis, the doctor may be held liable for any further injury or damages.
A delayed diagnosis can be a form of medical negligence if another doctor would have reasonably diagnosed the same condition in a timely fashion. A delay in diagnosis can lead to an undue injury to the patient if the illness or injury is allowed to progress rather than being treated.
Some of the more serious examples of delayed diagnosis are:
- Untimely Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease
- Delay in Diagnosis of Heart Attack
- Delay in Diagnosis and Treatment of Stroke
- Delay in Cancer Diagnosis
- Failure to Timely Diagnose Appendicitis
- Delay in Diagnosing Internal Trauma Injury
Obviously, any delay in diagnosis and treatment of an illness or injury can reduce the likelihood of recovery for the patient.
Medical negligence during a surgical procedure can often result in further surgeries, infection and sepsis, internal organ damage, immune system failure and even death. Surgical procedures require an enormous level of skill, and even the slightest mistakes can have profound effects on the patient.
Unintentional Laceration or Perforation
One of the most dangerous risks in any surgical procedure is that of cutting, lacerating or perforating an artery, organ or vessel. There are several ways a surgeon can make a potentially fatal mistake during an operation.
Wrong Site Surgery
Wrong site surgery is a type of surgical error, usually involving a mis-communication or error in hospital records which leads to a surgeon operating on the wrong organ or external appendage.
Foreign Object Left in a Patient
In some cases a patient may begin suffering from symptoms of infection and sepsis days or weeks after a surgical procedure. One of the possible causes could be a foreign object inadvertently left in their body by the surgeon.
Unnecessary surgery is often related to a misdiagnosis of patient symptoms or a medical decision without proper consideration of other options or risks.
Some of the most common unnecessary surgical procedures include:
- Pacemaker Implant
- Coronary Bypass Surgery
- Caesarean Section
While there are certainly cases where these surgeries are necessary and can save lives, many times the patient’s condition does not warrant such dramatic and invasive procedures.
Errors in Anesthesia
Anesthesia is an inherently risky part of any major medical operation, and requires a specialist, an anesthesiologist, to administer and monitor the effect on the patient.
Anesthesia malpractice can happen either during the pre-operation medical review, or during the procedure itself.
Negligent Anesthesia Preparation
If the anesthesiologist fails to properly review all the patient’s medical records, he or she may administer drugs to which the patient is allergic, causing injury or death.
Failure to Monitor Anesthetic Performance
Even if the pre-op work is done correctly, there is potential for negligence should the anesthesiologist not monitor the patient and react in time to and changes in vital signs.
Childbirth Trauma and Labour Malpractice
Childbirth can be an especially difficult event for the new born child, and even worse if not handled appropriately by the doctor and nurses.
Medical Negligence and C-Sections
A caesarean section (c-section) is often a requirement to preserve the health of the baby in cases of fetal distress. Commonly the baby will show signs of fetal distress, such as a lack of oxygen to the brain and reduced heart beat, and a c-section must be administered immediately to prevent injury to the fetal brain.
Mistreatment of Difficult Birth
During difficult births, the medical staff may have to use methods for forcing the extraction of the child. Usually a combination of forceps and suction will be used to force the child out of its mother. One of the risks associated with forced extraction is that any improper, or negligent handling of the process can cause permanent injuries to the baby, especially nerve damage such as brachial plexus injury.
Complications with Induced Labour
Many times, doctors and medical staff will attempt to speed up a delivery, or avoid a c-section by inducing labor. Oxytocin (common brand used is called Pitocin) is administered to expedite the delivery of the child, but this drug may have side-effects if not monitored carefully.
Negligent Long-Term Treatment
Medical negligence can also occur in subtle ways over the course of a long treatment period. Usually, the negligence will take the form of a failure to follow up with treatment, or a doctor’s failure to monitor the effect of the treatment properly.
Negligence in Patient Treatment Follow Up
Once a course of treatment for illness or injury has been chosen, it is critical that the doctor follow up regularly to keep abreast of the performance of the treatment. Often times, a nurse will be called upon to help administer treatment, but is not qualified to make medical decisions regarding continuation, cessation or adjustment of the treatment plan.
Failure to Monitor Treatment Accordingly
Similar to a failure to follow up, a doctor should be aware of the effects of any treatment being administered to his or her patient. This is done by testing and monitoring of patient recovery, vital signs and overall health.
Medical Negligence in General
While medical negligence can occur in many different ways, the general theme is that a medical professional deviates from the level of care that is required by his or her duty to patients.
Any deviation from the accepted medical standard of care is considered to be medical negligence, and if it causes undue injury to a patient the doctor, staff and/or hospital may be held liable.