A recent study conducted by renowned private research university Johns Hopkins revealed that more than 250,000 people die every year in the United States due to medical errors. This is a crucial piece of information as it gives medical malpractice the notoriety of being the third leading cause of death, right behind heart disease and cancer.
Other studies have pegged the figure to be higher, with some claiming the number of deaths every year to be around 440,000. The discrepancy in the reporting of statistics may be glaring but is explained by the fact that doctors, coroners and medical examiners rarely place human errors and system failures on the death certificate. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention base their figures on data taken from death certificates.
The research uncovered an alarming trend primarily since the relationship that you have with your physician is built on trust. And it’s a delicate situation since healthcare providers — doctors to be specific — take an oath that specifically states that they would “cause you no harm.” Despite that, medical malpractice happens more often than you think. How? Keep on reading below to learn more.
How does medical malpractice occur?
Medical malpractice happens when a health-care provider departs from the standard “standard of care” when treating a patient. The “standard of care” means what a levelheaded healthcare provider would or would not have done under identical circumstances. It all boils down to whether the person was negligent in performing his or her duties.
Some of the most common medical malpractice cases include:
- Delay in correctly diagnosing a medical condition like cancer
- Incorrect administration of anesthesia
- An error made during surgery
- Injury, or in some situations, death to a baby or the mother caused by errors made by the doctor, nurse and the hospital. This usually happens when a procedure, like a caesarian section, is delayed when the situation urgently calls for it
- Improper medication
- Failure to treat an illness, leading to it worsening, spreading or causing other medical problems
How do you establish that a person is indeed a victim of medical malpractice?
A malpractice claim will come to fruition if negligence shown by the healthcare provider results in injury or damage to a patient. However, you must take note that not all bad outcomes are proof of medical malpractice. There are occasions that a healthcare provider will let you know that you were a recipient of negligent medical care from a previous healthcare provider.
Another situation that usually happens is you will get a quick apology to prevent a medical malpractice claim from moving forward. This typically allows a settlement to prosper between the two parties, preventing litigation from happening. This is a tactic that insurance companies often employ as they want to settle with the injured party as soon as possible. Doing so lets them escape any more liabilities that can come to light once the full extent of your injuries is known and keep you from hiring legal services who could raise the settlement value.
You must bear in mind, though, that the successful prosecution of medical malpractice cases are not only rare but also stressful and take up a lot of your time. While research has shown that more than 250,000 people die from medical negligence, only 15% of the personal injury cases filed each year involve medical malpractice claims. The most telling figure, though, is this: more than 80% of those lawsuits end up with no payment being disbursed to the injured patient or their survivors.
What should you do if you believe that you’re a victim of negligent medical care?
Your first step is to immediately get in touch with an attorney that specializes in medical malpractice cases. Your lawyer will then thoroughly review the details of the case, which includes essential patient records and interviews with you, your friends and family members, to determine whether the case has any traction.
What can you do to reduce the chances of you experiencing medical malpractice?
Being proactive in medical care will always help. You should do research about your health condition and methodically document all symptoms. If anything remains unclear, you must ask your healthcare provider and demand comprehensive answers. It is also crucial that you not be intimidated by the system. If by any chance, you feel that something is amiss, you should immediately tell your doctor or nurse. While it is crucial to trust your healthcare provider, it is equally important to listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel uncomfortable or vulnerable going to the doctor by yourself, you can have a family member or a close friend accompany you.