By U.S. Navy photo by Journalist Seaman Joseph Caballero via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that about 400,000 people die from medical errors every year in the U.S.?

That’s a shocking statistic – considering that we rely on healthcare professionals, such as doctors, to help us get better. While a number of things could go wrong at a clinic or hospital, it’s hardly an excuse for someone to get hurt during treatment. Medical malpractice cases rise each year; so much so that it is now the third major cause of death after heart attacks and cancer.

While most mistakes are minor and don’t really injure anyone, others are not so harmless. Read on about the three most common medical malpractice examples.

Misdiagnosis/Delayed Diagnosis

When a patient is diagnosed for the wrong condition (or a condition that doesn’t exist), he or she is put at risk of injury, disability, or even death. However, if someone is not treated early, that patient loses precious opportunities that could otherwise have helped his or her condition. Research suggests that misdiagnosis counts for 26 percent of total medical malpractice lawsuits; and 63 percent for delayed diagnosis.

In order to prove this type of case, the healthcare professional’s treatment will be compared to how other medical experts in the same field would respond to the condition.

Another form of malpractice takes place when doctors either neglects to read test results or forgets it entirely. The patient ends up NOT receiving the required medical assistance; worsening his condition and delaying recovery.

Medication Errors

In 2006, about 1.5 million people in the U.S. were affected due to drug errors. This type of malpractice can occur in several ways, such as:

  • when a doctor gives the wrong prescription
  • when a doctor writes or provides the wrong dosage
  • when medication is administered to the wrong patient
  • when equipment designed to deliver the drug malfunctions

Drug errors typically occur in people over 60 years of age because they usually require multiple medications at a time. This can overwhelm doctors, or confuse those who are inexperienced.

Surgery Errors

Perhaps the scariest medical malpractice a person could experience is waking up during surgery to find out that something has gone terribly wrong. Or worse – to not awaken up at all. A common mistake happens when a surgeon operates on the wrong body part, or leaves a surgical tool after the operation. Although quite rare, they do happen and cause patients further agony.

Surgery errors usually occur when medical staff ignore standard protocol (such as marking the patient for surgery), or were negligent in their duties. This type of case generally involves more than one person, such as the surgeon and his team. When they fail to communicate properly with one another, then mistakes at the surgery room are bound to crop up.

It’s certainly scary to think that doctors, who were trained to help us in our time of need, can make mistakes that would endanger our lives. That doesn’t mean we should stop trusting them. When in doubt though, get a second opinion.

Note: medical malpractice claims are tricky legal matters. Just because a patient was unhappy or a doctor made a mistake doesn’t automatically mean that there’s a case. These incidents need to be investigated by experts, like an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

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