Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other medical professional fails to provide proper healthcare treatment, causing a patient harm or serious injury. Although the rules that regulate medical malpractice cases vary widely from state to state, this overview explains common types of medical malpractice and the errors that cause them.
Types of Medical Malpractice
According to Nolo, “Just because a doctor made a mistake or a patient was unhappy with a course of treatment or its outcome, doesn’t mean malpractice necessarily occurred. In order to meet the legal definition of medical malpractice, the doctor or medical provider must have been negligent in some way — meaning the doctor was not reasonably skillful or competent, and that incompetence harmed the patient.”
Types of medical malpractice include the following:
- Misdiagnosis. A large percentage of medical malpractice complaints occur as a result of misdiagnosis. With a misdiagnosis, a doctor falsely identifies a medical condition, causing the patient to miss treatment opportunities that could have prevented future harm.
- Delayed diagnosis. Delayed diagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to diagnose a serious condition in an appropriate amount of time, leading to other health conditions, injuries or death.
- Medication errors. If a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or dosage to a patient, the patient may have grounds to file a malpractice case against the doctor.
- Anesthesia mistakes. Anesthesia mistakes can cause serious injury, permanent brain damage and death — all of which are grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. To avoid anesthesia mistakes, anesthesiologists should inform the patient of the risks involved with anesthesia, fully investigate the patient’s medical history for potential complications and ensure all equipment is fully functioning.
- Surgery errors. No surgery comes without risks, but a doctor’s negligence in the operating room is a common cause of medical malpractice. Examples of negligence include leaving surgical instruments in the body, puncturing internal organs, operating on the wrong body part or failing to administer quality post-op care. Any of these can lead to serious infections and complications.
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