Patients should be able to trust that their doctors will help them with their health concerns, or at least do no harm. However, medical mistakes happen far more frequently than most people realize. According to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, hospital errors contribute to the deaths of between 210,000 and 440,000 patients per year. That makes medical malpractice the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. To protect themselves, patients should be aware of how the most common types of medical malpractice occur, and what they can do about it.
Misdiagnosis is the most common type of medical malpractice, according to a study published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety. The true scope of misdiagnosis may be much larger than even estimates indicate, because it is likely to be underreported. A missed or delayed diagnosis can lead to a patient not getting care that could have improved their health or saved their life.
Other common types of medical malpractice include medication errors, surgery errors and mistakes made during childbirth. Medication errors are extremely common, and can involve a mistake in prescribing a drug, administering the wrong medication or the wrong dose. Surgery errors are less common, but can have very serious consequences. There are a number of different errors that can occur during childbirth, including failure to properly monitor the condition of the mother or the fetus, and failure to perform a cesarean section when it is called for.
Patients can protect themselves by being advocates for their own health. This means asking a lot of questions, especially if you do not understand what is being said, or if something seems wrong. Medical personnel may use terms patients do not understand, so it is important to have medications and procedures explained in plain English, so that the patient can speak up if some of that information is incorrect. In the hospital, double check with staff administering medication that it is the medication that was prescribed. If your condition worsened after treatment or you have a new injury, and you suspect that it may have been caused by medical malpractice, consult with an attorney.