Errors Doctors and Hospitals Make That Cause Malpractice Lawsuits

Most people trust their doctors and hospitals and, fortunately, mistakes are only made in a small percentage of cases. However, some errors occur more often than others, and these missteps make up the majority of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Lt. Cmdr. Christina L. Telez, second from right, leads a tour through operating rooms for the visiting physicians and students from the University of the Ryukyus Sept. 12 at U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Foster. Telez escorted the visitors through a vacant operating room to introduce them to the various equipment used in surgery. Telez is the department head of the main operating room at USNH Okinawa. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Natalie M. Rostran)

Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis account for the largest number of medical malpractice lawsuits. If a doctor fails to diagnose a disease, or does so wrongly, patients lose valuable time needed for treatment, which might prevent further harm or even death. Lawyers in such cases often focus on what the doctor did or did not do when compared to what other doctors have done in similar cases.

Childbirth injuries are another common cause for malpractice lawsuits. Physicians and obstetricians are most often found negligent in prenatal care when they fail to diagnose a medical condition in the mother, when they fail to identify birth defects, and when they fail to identify ectopic pregnancies. During childbirth, doctor negligence can result in injury to a baby due to four common mistakes; failure to anticipate complications like a tangled umbilical cord, failure to respond to fetal distress, failure to order a cesarean section, and the incompetent use of forceps.

Malpractice lawsuits due to medication errors are growing in number, as approximately 1.5 million Americans are harmed by prescribed medicines every year. Dosage errors are by far the largest problem; patients are either given too little or too much of a drug. This can occur when a doctor accidentally writes the wrong dosage on the prescription or when a nurse administers the incorrect amount. In hospitals, prescribed medicines can be mixed up, and the wrong drug can be given to a patient. In some cases, a dislodged valve in an IV pump can administer too much of a drug over a short period of time.

Keep in mind that negligence must by proved in cases of medical malpractice; malpractice doesn’t necessarily occur just because a patient is unhappy with the outcome or a mistake was made.

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