When it comes to our health and the health of our families, we trust doctors and other medical professionals to help us. Unfortunately, sometimes patients come away feeling worse than before. What happens when a patient feels that his or her doctor has not only failed to address the initial concerns but has also caused significant harm? This is where the concept of medical malpractice comes into play.
What Exactly Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a situation in which a medical provider is accused of failing to give the patient an appropriate level of care, resulting in harm due to negligence, surgical errors, misdiagnosis, mistreatment of illness, or some other mistake. Doctors cannot fairly be expected to be 100% perfect, of course, but there is a level of care that any properly licensed and educated doctor should be able to provide. Prescribing pain medications loosely or hastily performing a surgery are examples of reckless behaviors that could lead to malpractice suits.
Proving that an individual failed to uphold the standard of care expected of a healthcare professional in his or her position is key to building a strong malpractice case. This can be difficult to prove in some cases, but a good attorney like those at Saunders & Walker P.A. can help you get the evidence you need to support your case.
The Repercussions of Medical Negligence and Wrongdoing
When a patient is done harm by the actions (or lack thereof) of a trusted medical provider, the repercussions can be significant. If, for example, a person is misdiagnosed and prescribed a variety of medications and procedures he or she doesn’t actually need, it creates the potential for physical damage and can cost the patient a great deal of money. In the worst of cases, malpractice can even result in a fatality, leaving families reeling from an unexpected loss.
The effects of malpractice go beyond just physical risk; when a patient finds out that a doctor has made a potentially dangerous error, there is often a great deal of emotional distress and a sense of betrayal. This feeling can create an ongoing distrust of other medical professionals, leading to an unwillingness to seek help for serious health issues in the future.
Common Types of Malpractice Claims
Medical negligence can occur in many different ways, but there are a few categories of malpractice incidents that seem to make up the majority of cases. The following are various types of medical malpractice claims with examples for each:
- Misdiagnosis (or failure to diagnose)
- Example: A patient presents with symptoms that other doctors would recognize as suggestive of pneumonia, but the doctor does not perform any appropriate testing and diagnoses the patient with asthma triggered by allergies. The pneumonia goes untreated and the patient ends up in the ER with sepsis.
- Delayed treatment
- Example: A doctor correctly diagnoses a patient with a severe bowel obstruction. Rather than schedule the patient with another surgeon while she is on vacation, the doctor puts off surgical intervention until she returns. During the wait, the patient is in excruciating pain and the bowel becomes perforated.
- Unskilled/improper treatment
- Example: A dermatologist performs a laser skin resurfacing procedure on a patient despite having minimal practice with the tool. The job is done improperly, and the patient has a painful recovery that leads to permanent scarring.
- Incorrect medications
- Example: An elderly patient is prescribed a blood thinner for a heart condition, but the doctor writes too high a dosage on the prescription. As a result of taking too much medication, the patient suffers new or worsening complications.
- Withholding risk information (failing to get informed consent)
- Example: A bariatric surgeon recommends a gastric bypass to a patient but fails to inform her of the surgical risks and post-surgical requirements. The patient is never told about the possibility of malnutrition, and she suffers severe hair loss and other physical damage.
- Surgical mistakes
- Example: In an attempt to fit more patients into his schedule, a spinal surgeon begins to rush his team through procedures and fails to take the proper cautions while working. As a result of working too quickly, the surgeon accidentally damages the spinal cord, leaving the patient partially paralyzed.
What Makes a Particular Malpractice Case Criminal?
Medical professionals are human just like the rest of us, which, unfortunately, means that they sometimes make mistakes and struggle to diagnose certain conditions properly. Treating some issues can be a trial-and-error experience, but doctors are expected to use sufficient caution to minimize patient risk. When a doctor fails to do his or her job properly, the severity of the situation determines whether the case reaches the level of criminal malpractice.
If a patient suffers a relatively minor injury as a result of a similarly minor error, the doctor’s actions might not be considered criminal. For example: If a clerical error fails to include an allergy to a certain topical medication and the doctor prescribes an ointment that gives the patient a painful rash, the incident may be considered malpractice (someone should have confirmed all allergies with the patient) but will likely not be considered criminal.
If, on the other hand, the doctor’s negligence is so egregious that it causes serious harm or death to the patient, the case may be a criminal offense. If a person is seriously injured, suffers organ damage, develops a chronic condition, is permanently disabled, or is killed as a result of the doctor’s actions or inactions, criminal charges may be filed in addition to standard malpractice charges.
Doctors who defraud patients or insurance companies by ordering unnecessary procedures and/or making known false diagnoses are some of the clearest examples of criminal malpractice.
What to Do if You’ve Been the Victim of Malpractice
If you’ve been harmed as a result of what you believe to be a medical professional’s failure to provide an acceptable standard of care, there are a few things you should (and should not) do:
- Stay calm and don’t act out of anger or impulse. While it may be tempting to yell at a clinic administrator over the phone or leave an angry review of the provider online, it’s important that you address the issue through the appropriate legal channels rather than via rash actions.
- Get in touch with a medical malpractice attorney with strong experience. An attorney can tell you whether your case qualifies as malpractice, determine whether criminal charges are appropriate, gather information, and guide you throughout the process of your malpractice suit.
Find an Experienced Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer at Saunders & Walker P.A.
Proving that you’ve suffered some kind of harm, even if it’s not immediately visible, can usually be accomplished with photos, x-ray imaging, or a physical exam by another doctor. The major challenge in malpractice cases is developing strong evidence that the negligence of the medical provider was the cause of said harm. That’s where the attorneys at Saunders & Walker P.A. come in.
Our expert malpractice lawyers are dedicated to helping victims of medical negligence seek the compensation they deserve for the harm they’ve suffered. If you’ve been forced to undergo corrective treatment after a doctor’s errors left you injured, you shouldn’t be left footing the bill. Your medical malpractice lawyer will obtain and review relevant medical records, test results, and other information to show a causal link and present a strong, evidence-based case in court.
For your free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, contact Saunders & Walker P.A. today at (800) 748-7115.