There are nearly endless ways that a physician or other medical professional could be negligent, resulting in medical malpractice. From failing to diagnose a condition to making errors with medications to surgical mistakes, there are so many things that can go wrong when a doctor is not providing services that live up to the expected standards of care.
The different types of malpractice that may occur can be categorized in several ways, including by type of injury or illness negligence causes to whether it stems from diagnosis, treatment, or after care. Some types of negligence are more common than others, and some are more likely to cause more severe harm. Patients should be aware of all the possibilities so that they can advocate for themselves or their loved ones who are receiving medical care.
Errors of Diagnosis
Diagnosing illness and injury is not a perfect science. Physicians must take into account many factors when making a diagnosis, including the fact that the patient may not be communicating all symptoms and other things that could impact the diagnosis. Some illnesses are more complicated to diagnose and may require multiple laboratory tests, imaging scans, and the examination of multiple medical professionals.
This is why there is a lot of room for error in diagnosing patients and a great potential for negligence. If a doctor does not take all reasonable steps to make as accurate a diagnosis as possible, a patient could be misdiagnosed or could have a delayed diagnosis. When this happens it means the patient may not get the right treatment or the treatment is delayed, causing harm.
In a malpractice case involving errors in diagnosis, the legal team must compare what the doctor did to what other competent doctors would do to diagnose a patient in the same circumstances. If the doctor is found to have not done everything that would be expected or reasonable, it may be possible to prove negligence.
Another common type of medical negligence involves medications. Taking the wrong medication, taking the wrong dose, or not taking a needed medication, are all situations that can cause harm and that may be blamed on negligence. There are several steps in the process that could cause a medication error: a mistake in writing the prescription, an error in how medication is administered by a doctor or nurse, equipment malfunctions that result in a mistake in drug administration, or an error in filling the prescription by a pharmacist.
An unfortunately common type of medical negligence causes harm to the most vulnerable patients. Newborns can be harmed in a number of ways during childbirth if the doctor, nurse, or midwife makes a mistake. Some of the possible errors that can occur include:
- Lack of oxygen leading to brain damage and cerebral palsy.
- A failure to identify and treat birth defects.
- A failure to recognize and deal with complications, such as a breech position or maternal high blood pressure.
- Misuse of birth tools, such as forceps, that cause physical harm to the newborn.
- A failure to diagnose a condition in the mother that can harm the baby.
- Inappropriate use of force in delivering the baby that results in nerve damage and Erb’s palsy.
- A failure to recognize the need for and to perform a Cesarean section.
Anesthesia is administered to protect patients during procedures and surgeries, but there are risks of being under this medication. Errors can lead to brain damage, paralysis, permanent injuries, and even death. Mistakes that may be made in administering anesthesia include not using enough, using too much, not determining a patient’s medical history to assess potential complications, not informing the patient of the risks of anesthesia, not properly intubating the patient, equipment defects, or not monitoring a patient’s vital signs while under anesthesia.
Surgical procedures are often simple and routine, but some are very complex. Regardless of how simple or challenging a surgery, a patient can be seriously harmed or killed if the surgeon and other members of the team to not provide the highest level of care or take all reasonable steps to ensure the surgery is successful. Mistakes made during surgery can cause injury, paralysis, infections, brain damage, and even fatalities.
Possible errors that can be made during surgery and attributed to negligence include damaging internal organs, operating on the wrong part of the body, leaving something inside the patient, failing to sanitize equipment adequately, using equipment that doesn’t work correctly, and even failing to provide adequate care after a surgical procedure.
Nursing Home Malpractice
Elderly and disabled patients are often more vulnerable to negligence for a variety of reasons. They may be less able to speak up or advocate for themselves; they tend to have more complex medical issues; and elderly patients are generally less likely to be in good health and to be more adversely effected by medical errors.
There are many types of malpractice that may occur in a nursing home setting with elderly or disabled patients. These may include neglect or inadequate care in general, bed sores, medication errors and interactions, falls caused by inadequate care or mobility equipment, misdiagnoses, errors in treatment or surgical procedures, abuse by caregivers, and lack of informed consent.
Malpractice by Severity
While there are so many different types of medical malpractice and ways in which negligence can occur, it is the severity of the damage caused to the patient that matters the most. Whether the negligence is an error of omission, an incorrectly conducted procedure, or a mistake of diagnosis, the harm that it causes the victim is what that person will have to live with for the rest of their lives.
It is the severity of the harm that impacts the victim the most, but is also what most determines the outcome of a malpractice lawsuit. The more severe the damage to the patient, the more likely there is to be a settlement in the patient’s favor and the greater that settlement amount is likely to be. This is important for patients to understand as they fight for justice and compensation after being the victim of medical negligence.
Other Categories of Malpractice
Malpractice types are often characterized by the type of error or the harm caused by the negligence. There are other ways to view malpractice as well, and these can be important in making a case for compensation. It is important to look at negligence from all angles. For example, malpractice may be caused by a doctor not taking enough time with a patient or a diagnosis. Not taking a full patient history, or not ordering as many laboratory tests as needed can lead to errors and harm.
In rare cases malpractice may occur when a doctor does too much. For instance, a doctor in Chicago was recently found guilty of malpractice after performing 25 surgeries, some experimental, on a young boy who was left with permanent disability as a result. Malpractice may also be categorized by location. Hospital malpractice cases are often aimed at the entire facility or medical team, rather than an individual physician. The procedures and policies of a hospital may contribute to negligence.
All of these examples and types are just some of the many possible ways that negligence can occur in a medical setting. Anyone who is receiving medical care should be aware of all the ways in which negligence can happen. Being informed can help you advocate for the best care for yourself or for your vulnerable loved ones.