Common Medical Errors Leading to Malpractice Claims

Medical errors are an unfortunate reality in healthcare, often leading to severe consequences for patients and their families. Despite advancements in medical technology and knowledge, these errors, ranging from diagnostic mistakes to surgical mishaps, are …

Medical Errors

Medical errors are an unfortunate reality in healthcare, often leading to severe consequences for patients and their families. Despite advancements in medical technology and knowledge, these errors, ranging from diagnostic mistakes to surgical mishaps, are becoming increasingly prevalent.

Alongside jeopardizing patient safety, these errors strain healthcare resources, contributing to rising healthcare costs. They also erode public confidence in medical professionals and institutions that are meant to provide care and healing. In the United States, the number of medical malpractice cases is growing at an alarming rate.

Recent statistics show that one out of three healthcare providers in the country is sued for malpractice at least once throughout their practice. What’s even more shocking is that they’re among the top 5 causes of death in the US, closely following cancer and heart disease.

Stay with us as we dabble into the common medical errors that lead to medical malpractice claims.

Diagnostic Errors

Diagnostic errors pose a significant challenge in healthcare, encompassing scenarios where healthcare providers either misdiagnose conditions or fail to promptly identify them. These errors can lead to delayed treatments, unnecessary procedures, and potentially serious health consequences for patients.

Misdiagnosis occurs when a healthcare provider inaccurately identifies a patient’s condition. This results in inappropriate treatment that ends up worsening the actual ailment and might even lead to complicated medical interventions. On the other hand, delayed diagnosis occurs when a condition is correctly identified after a prolonged period. This often allows it to progress to a more advanced stage.

Insufficient patient information, time constraints, complexity of symptoms, and cognitive biases are among the leading causes of medical misdiagnosis.

A JAMA Network investigation conducted in 2023 revealed that 550 out of 2428 patients across 29 hospitals suffered misdiagnoses. This makes up 22.6% of the total number of cases surveyed, out of which 17.9% consequently suffered permanent health damage or death.

Medication Errors

Medication errors encompass mistakes in prescribing, dispensing, or administering medications. These errors can lead to adverse effects ranging from mild discomfort to severe complications and even death.

Prescription Error:

This occurs when healthcare providers inaccurately prescribe medications. This includes incorrect dosages or medications that interact negatively with other drugs the patient is taking.

Dispensing Error:

This occurs when medications are incorrectly labeled or provided in the wrong dosage or formulation in pharmacies. Patients might inadvertently take the wrong medication or receive the incorrect strength, posing significant risks to their health.

Administration Error:

This happens when a healthcare staff administers medication incorrectly, whether through incorrect routes, improper technique, or administering the medication to the wrong patient.

Consequently, patients might complain of not receiving the intended treatment or experiencing harmful effects due to improper administration.

Recently, a non-profit healthcare organization in Illinois – OSF Healthcare – was ordered to pay a settlement of $41 million in a malpractice lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by Craig Pierce, a 72-year-old man from Peoria, who was admitted to their medical center for pneumonia.

The staff at the medical center failed to monitor Pierce’s lab results properly and prescribed him a drug that was too low for his condition. As a result, he suffered a stroke the following month.

TorHoerman Law notes that when such malpractice occurs, the patient is left injured and financially burdened. Such cases are quite common in Illinois, especially in its southern regions, including the city of Edwardsville. 

Margaret Martin, an Edwardsville resident who lost her husband to medical malpractice years ago suffered the same fate. Andrew J. Martin, 70, died shortly after being admitted to the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

The reason behind his death or the malpractice committed by the medical facility was not revealed in court. However, the medical center did end up paying a settlement of $4.5 million to Martin’s family,  indicating they were responsible for his death.

As an Edwardsville resident, if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, you’re eligible to file a lawsuit against the healthcare provider or organization involved. Unfamiliar with the legal aspects of a personal injury lawsuit?

Talking to an Edwardsville personal injury lawyer will get you the expert help you need. They’re trained to tackle such legal battles and will be able to answer any queries you might have.

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors are life-threatening errors comprising mishaps that occur before, during, or after surgical procedures. Leaving surgical instruments, sponges, or other foreign objects inside a patient’s body is a common example of it. Such a mistake can cause infections, pain, and other serious health issues.

Errors during administering anesthesia are another example, which involve:

  • Administering inadequate amount of anesthesia
  • Administering the wrong type of anesthesia

Though seemingly minor, the outcome of these errors can be fatal, internal bleeding, organ (often brain) damage, or even death at times. 

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries result from negligence or substandard care during childbirth. Common birth injuries include:

  • Brachial Plexus injuries
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Facial nerve injuries
  • Intracranial hemorrhage
  • Fractures

These injuries tend to have lifelong consequences for the child, including extensive medical treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care. Families affected by birth injuries often pursue legal action against healthcare providers, alleging negligence in the management of labor and delivery.

A similar case was reported in West Reading, Pennsylvania in April. An infant boy – delivered in the Reading Hospital – suffered a brain injury called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy at the time of birth. The condition stems from insufficient oxygen and blood flow to the brain and leads to seizures, reduced motor function, and cognitive impairment. The worst part? These severe symptoms often last a lifetime.

Miranda Garcia, the boy’s mother, filed a lawsuit against the hospital, which ultimately resulted in a settlement of $32.5 million.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which states are most affected by medical malpractices in the US?

West Virginia is the US state with the highest number of recorded medical malpractices, with its per capita medical malpractice payment being $989. Other states that closely follow are Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Which country reports the highest number of medical errors?

An NIH survey revealed that the US stood out for its high medical error rates, high out-of-pocket costs, and insufficient coordination of care. It also found that Americans were most likely to report medical errors, with 34% of them admitting to suffering from one of the four types of errors.

What is the largest medical malpractice settlement of 2024?

The Pennsylvania medical malpractice settlement of $207 million has the record of being the largest for the ongoing year. The settlement – ordered by a verdict upheld in a Philadelphia court – required the Penn Med Hospital to an unnamed mother. Her child suffered cerebral palsy as an outcome of delayed delivery.

To summarize everything we’ve learned above, medical malpractices are no joke. While even doctors are allowed some slips for being humans, they must consider the grave consequences their errors pose on someone’s entire life.

With this knowledge in mind, all healthcare providers, caregivers, and staff members must stay as vigilant as possible on their jobs.

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