If we experience a medical emergency, our initial reaction is to go the emergency room. Hospitals are full of specialists, staff, and equipment that can quickly diagnose and treat whatever ailment we have. But what happens when an emergency trip to the hospital results in oversights and errors that either worsen our condition or in some cases, result in death?
Hospital malpractice is more common than one might think. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who present to the hospital for care experience some kind of preventable harm that leads to their death. This would make hospital malpractice the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. Hospital malpractice can take many forms. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine states that he most common hospital malpractice claims are against obstetricians/gynecologists, followed by general surgeons, and primary care physicians. Surgery errors account for 34% of inpatient hospital malpractice claims and diagnosis errors account for 46% of outpatient hospital malpractice claims.
So what does hospital malpractice look like? One recent case involved a 28 year old woman, whose leg had to be amputated after doctors at the hospital failed to adequately treat a blood clot. The woman went to the emergency room for an asthma attack, but expressed concern over pain and numbness she was also feeling in her leg. Diagnostic tests confirmed a blood clot in her leg, but because the hospital was a small, community facility, it did not have a vascular surgeon on-site. The on-call vascular surgeon was consulted over the phone and ordered more tests, but ultimately released the woman with instructions to follow-up with him in three days. Before the three days had passed, the womans condition had worsened and a portion of her leg had to be amputated. A jury determined that the hospital, emergency room physicians, and vascular surgeon were all negligent in their care of the woman.
Another recent case involved the death of a 63 year old man who received inadequate care and treatment at the hospital. The man presented to the hospital for dialysis and treatment for a condition that causes toxins to be released into the bloodstream and subsequent kidney failure. During his admission to the hospital, the man experienced heart problems and was prescribed a medicine by the physician. While the hospital and physician acted correctly and quickly to treat the kidney issues, the medication that was prescribed to him caused irreversible colon damage, that coupled with his other ailments, led to his death. The hospital and physicians were found to be negligent in prescribing the medication, as they were not aware of the harmful side effects
These are just two examples of hospital malpractice. If you feel that you or a loved one received inadequate care at a hospital that either led to a worsening of a condition or death, please contact us for a free consultation today.