Many people may hear the term “medical malpractice”, but what does it mean? It is an accident that can occur at any given moment when a person goes to a medical facility or a physician to seek health care. This occurs when a person is injured or experiences complications because of a negligence or error that was committed by someone in the medical field. This error typically leads to substantial damage, and can even result in death.
Medical mistakes and negligence happen on a greater scale than most people believe. Would someone ever imagine that medical errors are number three as the cause for the most deaths every year? Just imagine that medical errors that result in death are just below the deaths that occur due to cancer and heart disease. Along with these statistics, the US Department of Health and Human Services found that one out of seven Medicare patients suffers an injury every month due to a medical professional’s mistake. When a person analyzes the fact that only 15% of the population has Medicare, the rates of patients who suffer an injury is very high. From the 15% of Medicare patients, about 15,000 people die every year by medical malpractice.
The number of deaths that occur every year does not include the number of victims who have been catastrophically injured or developed a disability because of the injuries they sustained. These errors can bring financial burdens, psychological loads, and the worst being physical incapacities. These problems remain with a patient and their families for the rest of their lives.
Conditions like cerebral palsy and hypoxia can leave a patient with permanent ill-health, just like a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnose can cause a delay in the correct treatment needed for a patient. These are all ways that a medical professional or facility can fail in providing the adequate standard of care that is owed to all of their patients. To see whether the ‘standard of care’ was executed, the Orlando Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Percy Martinez’s Law Firm hire medical professionals that are trained and experienced in the same subject area as the physician or medical professional who committed the mistake to determine whether that medical expert would have provided the same form of care given the same circumstance.
Negligence in The Medical Field
A vast majority of people misinterpret medical malpractice with the term ‘medical negligence’. Negligence constitutes only a fraction of a malpractice claim, although these two terms are often used hand-in-hand. Just saying that a physician or medical facility was negligent is not enough evidence to build a case for the basis of a medical malpractice. To begin with, a victim must show how the person in question was negligent and that that negligence is what caused their injuries. The terminology and laws associated with medical malpractice claims could be difficult to comprehend but an attorney in Orlando that specializes with medical negligence leading to malpractice can be of an assistance to better understand.
The studies and discoveries that have taken place over the centuries are what have shaped the standard of care that is persistently demanded by medical professionals. The treatment and diagnosis of patients are based on the standard of care. The standard of care outlines how every procedure should be done. Once a doctor is unable to adhere to these standards or does not know how to treat a patient, then they must refer the patient to another physician who is capable of providing him or her with the appropriate treatment.
What are some examples of medical negligence that can be grounds for a lawsuit in Orlando, FL?
Misdiagnosis or delay to diagnose
Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis happens when a physician either is unable to determine the medical condition of a person or takes too much time to do so. This medical error can have fatal results for a patient that requires swift treatment for a medical condition like cancer. Many diseases share similar symptoms which can sometimes confuse a doctor. If a doctor feels they cannot conclude which medical condition a patient has, they must seek the opinion of another doctor. The physician cannot just claim that the person has a condition that they are assuming when they are not 100% sure that that is the correct condition. An error in providing the correct treatment can come from this mistake. A physician must be held accountable when they do not properly diagnose a potentially deadly condition.
Surgical mistakes occur when a surgeon or staff member that is performing an operation makes a mistake during the procedure that either causes a patient to get injured, suffer a complication, and sometimes even their death. Some of those errors include: scalpel cuts through vital tissues and other organs, forgetting a surgical instrument inside the body of the patient, performing a surgery that is not required for the current medical condition that the patient has, giving the incorrect blood type to the patient during a transfusion, performing the operation on the wrong site, among others.
Prescription mistakes can happen by different parties like physicians, pharmacists, and hospital staff members. An incorrect prescription might be written by a physician, the prescription could be incorrectly filled by a pharmacist, and even during a patient’s stay at the hospital, they might not be adequately receiving the medication as they should be. Some medical errors include: writing the name of a similar medication and confusing it for the patient’s required one, not asking about other medications or any allergies that a patient might be taking or has, prescribing the incorrect medication due to a misunderstanding of lab results, not ordering the correct dosage amount, administering the drug at incorrect times, not properly administering a drug (e.g. oral vs. injected), or writing a medication that is unable to be read by others.
Emergency room errors
With the high-stress levels that an emergency setting has, mistakes and lack of communication can often happen by ER staff members. Due to most patients suffering from an emergency when they visit the ER, a mistake done to a patient in the ER can be fatal. Some mistakes that occur in emergency rooms include: not properly sanitizing equipment, not ordering the correct examinations, not adequately testing a patient, failing to gather enough medical records, faulty medical equipment, and poorly trained staff.
Anesthesia is often administered when a surgical procedure needs to be performed. Because of the sensitivity that anesthesia consists of, a medical professional has to specifically study for that area of expertise. Some anesthesia mistakes include: giving the incorrect amount of anesthesia, miscommunication, not correctly reading the patient’s medical chart, not monitoring the patient’s vital signs while under anesthesia, not administering anesthesia at the proper moment, and anesthesia that is incorrectly labeled, among others.
The greatest joy that a parent can experience is the birth of their child. Injuries like cerebral hypoxia, brachial plexus, brain trauma, and asphyxia are just some injuries that an infant can endure as a result of a medical professional’s inadequate care. Some of these injuries can leave the infant permanently disabled, and others can even be the root of their death. A pregnant woman needs to be properly cared for while she is pregnant to ensure that she does not have any diseases or conditions that can hurt the unborn child like HIV, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.
A pregnant woman will undergo a cesarean for a number of reasons. When a physician fails to order a cesarean, does not perform one in time, or makes a mistake during the operation, these actions can constitute as a medical malpractice. Typically, a woman will undergo a cesarean when there are complications prior to giving birth or medical conditions with the mother like a baby weighing more than 8.4lbs, fetal distress, prolonged labor, placental abruption, previous C-section, the baby is in breech position, placenta previa, among others.
Wrongful death is probably the worse outcome that can come from a medical malpractice – when a person dies as a result of a medical professional’s carelessness, inattention, and or recklessness. Liability can fall on a medical staff employee that killed a patient, even unintentionally. The personal representative(estate or assigned family member) of the victim would be able to file on behalf of the deceased.
Hypoxia-Anoxic Encephalopathy (HAE)
This is an injury sustained when there is a reduction or a complete stop of oxygen to the brain. Strokes, cardiac arrests, chest trauma, severe bronchial asthma, delay of a C-section, umbilical cord wrapped around baby’s neck, among others, are just some examples of how HAE can surface. When a physician does not properly treat or care for any of these conditions, he or she can face a civil lawsuit. The severity of brain damage that a victim of HAE receives depends on the amount of time they were without oxygen to their brain.
This is a condition that can happen during the prenatal stage, during birth, or in the early years of a child’s life. An unborn child can develop this condition through an infection that their mother may be carrying like HIV. Sometimes a condition will not be treated because the physician did not properly test the mother for infections. During birth, the use of vacuums, forceps, or being pulled out forcefully, can all be causes for an infant’s delicate brain and skull to become damaged. Also, a blunt force trauma to a child’s head can cause them to endure cerebral palsy.
Medical Malpractice Facts
Some would be surprised to find that they were a victim of a medical error, while others realize just in time that they became a victim. This is some data concerning medical malpractice throughout the United States:
- An average of 225,000 people die every year by some type of malpractice (third leading cause of deaths in the U.S)
- Out of all the medical malpractice cases that occur, only 2% of those victims end up filing a claim
- 12,000 patients die every year by unnecessary surgery
- Surgeons account for fifty percent of medical lawsuits
- Medication side effects are the cause of 106,000 deaths every year
- Medication errors injure an average of 1.5 million patients annually. It is the medical negligence that occurs the most
- Infections kill about 80,000 people every year
- Other errors account for 20,000 deaths every year
Medical Malpractice Verdicts
Delay In C-Section
In 2004, a 28-week-old pregnant woman went to a Medical Center because she was experiencing decreased fetal movement. They placed her on a fetal monitoring system. The baby’s heartbeat remained steady for 18 hours but started dropping into the 60s and 50s. The staff on duty called the physician who was on call to let him know of the situation but he did not come to see the mother or call another physician to have her checked out. He simply said to continue monitoring the baby. This went on for another 3 ½ hours until an emergency C-section had to be performed because the baby was in severe fetal distress. As a result of this delay and negligence by the physician, the infant suffered a devastating birth injury and now requires 24/7 care. The family of the infant was awarded $29.8 million.
Failure to Diagnose Prostate Cancer
In 2004, a man went to seek the care of a urologist and was found to have an elevated PSA of 5.8. A prostate cancer biopsy was performed and came back negative. During his follow up appointment a couple of months later, his PSA came back 3.9, which is in the normal range. Two years later, his PSA levels were at 5.7 and because he had previously had a PSA level of 5.8 which turned out to be normal, the urologist did not order another biopsy. During his annual visit, he explained how he was having an onset of urinary symptoms. The physician found that it was not necessary to perform a biopsy because he believed that it was normal. Two months later, he went to seek the advice of another professional and was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer. The man received $2.84 million in compensation.
Failure to Diagnose Bowel Obstruction
A 25-year old female became a victim of a wrongful death after a physician failed to diagnose a bowel obstruction. She had previously undergone a gastric bypass and appendectomy that led to her losing about 200 pounds. She went to the Emergency Department with complaints of severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea. This persisted for a few days. The physician did not screen her for bowel obstruction even thought she had undergone a gastric bypass surgery in the past. They simply ordered a change in her diet and to undergo a laparoscopic cholelithiasis. During the procedure, the anesthesia induction led to her death from aspiration due to the bowel obstruction. Her family was awarded $2 million.
In 2015, a 50-year old man suffered complete blindness from his right eye. He went to an Eye and Lasik center to perform Lasik surgery to improve his eyesight, but instead became a victim of an anesthesia mistake when the optometrist negligently injected anesthesia behind his eye, causing him to go blind. The physician did not tell him of the adverse effects that could come from the operation, nor did he explain other options that could be performed for his condition. The man was awarded $1.29 million.
Primary Care Physician Negligence
In 2006, a man went to the hospital complaining of chest pains. He was given aspirin and Nitroglycerin, which improved his condition. An EKG was scheduled, but everything pointed that he was not having an active heart attack. Along with the EKG, a stress test and nuclear test were performed by the hospital’s The results were negative and he was discharged from the hospital with instructions to following up with his Primary Care Physician. Because all test came back normal, his PCP did not refer him to a cardiologist when his chest pains persisted and did not continue the use of aspirin. Four months later, he died from a heart attack. The family was awarded $5.8 million.
Failure to Diagnose Malignant Melanoma
In 2005, a 36-year old man died after melanoma spread to his liver. The victim had visited his primary care doctor in 2003 for a mole that he had on his calf that seemed to be changing in appearance. The physician disregarded it as a benign finding without doing any testing on it. He scheduled a follow-up appointment in 6 months’ time, but after 5 months, the victim called the practice and said that the mole was changing drastically. He was seen by another physician who immediately sent him for a biopsy. The mole was removed and was found to have been ulcerating melanoma with downward growth. 4-months after the removal of the mole, a mass was found in his liver which was attributed to the spread of the melanoma. With so many months that passed, he did not have a great prognosis and died 2 months later. His wife, 3-year old daughter, and unborn son were awarded $1 million.
Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Malpractice
Q: What does medical malpractice signify?
Answer: Medical malpractice is a term that is often confused with medical negligence. For the most part, they are used interchangeably but do not mean the same thing. In the medical field, a standard of care has been established to ensure that every patient gets the care or treatment that they deserve. When a medical professional breaks this care and the patient endures an injury or death, then it is considered a medical malpractice. In order to determine whether someone has been a victim of a medical malpractice, the physician in question must have acted in a way that another similar doctor would not.
Q: How can I be able to view whether a health care provider or hospital was negligent and led to my medical malpractice?
Answer: Sometimes, the medical malpractice may not be visible to the human eye. A patient might need to acquire physical documentation like x-rays, lab tests, medical records, and other information in order to show how the medical professional was negligent. The majority of the time, a medical expert will be needed to prove this argument.
Q: Can I report an act of medical malpractice?
Answer: When there is a suspicion that a medical malpractice has occurred, it should be reported to the State Medical Practices Board. This will also help a plaintiff’s case.
Q: Who can be held liable for my medical malpractice injury?
Answer: Practically any medical professional that did not uphold the mandated standard of care that led to a victim’s harm can be liable for the resulting injuries. Even the medical facility or organization can be found guilty. A victim needs to determine whether the employee was an “independent contractor” or not.
Q: How will I be able to tell whether my medical malpractice case is valid?
Answer: Trying to figure out whether a medical malpractice is valid is nearly impossible to do so alone. A victim needs to seek the guidance and assistance of a skilled medical malpractice lawyer that will hire a medical expert in that specific field to determine whether a medical negligence indeed occurred.
Q: What does the term “breach of the standard of care” mean?
Answer: The term “standard of care” is something that needs to be practiced by every medical professional. It is something that is expected when a patient is being treated or cared for due to an injury, disease, of medical condition that they may have. Breaching this means that a medical malpractice has just happened.
Q: Can a physician be sued for malpractice other than the mistakes done during surgery?
Answer: Errors during surgery is not always the cause for a medical malpractice. Negligence’s like delaying to diagnose a condition, not ordering the appropriate tests, prescribing the wrong medication, and failing to get informed consent, are all examples that can bring a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Q: What can I be compensated for in a medical malpractice case?
Answer: The compensation that will be given to a victim depends on the severity of the injury, the location where the malpractice took place, and whether the victim’s credibility is viewed as genuine by the jury. A victim can be awarded for many damages like future medical bills, past medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of future earnings, punitive damages, loss of consortium, in-home assistance, and more.
Q: In order to have a successful medical malpractice case, what do I need to prove?
Answer: First, there must be an establishment of a patient-doctor relationship. Secondly, that the doctor in question performed a medical negligence that resulted in an injury. Lastly, that that injury was the result of that medical negligence.
Q: What should I do first in pursuing a medical malpractice claim?
Answer: The victim should contact an attorney that specializes in the medical malpractice and understands all the laws that are involved with the medical field. The lawyer will review the case and figure out whether the victim has a case or not, and if necessary, they will hire a medical expert to confirm their findings.
The Orlando Attorneys at Percy Martinez Law Firm
The firm has helped countless of victims of medical malpractice recover the damages that have been done to them. Sometimes it can be too late for a victim, but their families can also seek justice for their loved one. Medical mistakes happen more often than they should be occurring. How is it possible that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death throughout the nation? A person that seeks medical assistance should not be leaving the hospital in a worse condition than before entering the hospital. A person should be able to entrust their health with a medical professional and not fear for their lives. A medical malpractice legal professional in Orlando can help the victim of a medical mistake regain a piece of their life back.
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