Behind heart disease and cancer, medical malpractice is the third most common cause of death in the United States, according to studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of Patient Safety. Medical mistakes cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. These numbers are especially alarming because given that medical errors are, by nature, preventable.
Awareness of the harmful impact of medical negligence has grown immensely in the past 15 years. In 1999, the famous “To Err Is Human” report from the Institute of Medicine estimated that up to 98,000 deaths are caused by mistakes made in hospitals. Many people at the time thought that number was too high, but it is now widely accepted. In 2010, a report by the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services stated that 180,000 patients per year in Medicare alone died in part because of bad hospital care. Last year, a study in the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients annually sustain preventable harm in hospitals that contributes to their deaths.
Here are some of the most common types of medical malpractice:
Failure to diagnose/misdiagnosis may occur when symptoms are not obvious or when there are multiple possible diagnoses. If misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis occurs, patients may not receive necessary treatment in a timely manner. Medical personnel can be held liable for further injury.
Anesthesia errors can cause serious injuries. When anesthesia is administered incorrectly, patients can suffer serious, sometimes fatal, consequences.
Surgical mistakes can include operating on the wrong patient, performing the wrong surgical procedure, causing damage to an organ or other part of the body, and even leaving a foreign object inside the body.
Prescription drug mistakes can include prescribing the incorrect medication or wrong dosage and failing to anticipate complications or warn about side effects. Danger to patients may also arise from defective medications.
Childbirth errors can unfortunately cause birth injuries that result in severe permanent impairments for the child, including cerebral palsy, spina bifida and cleft palate.
Defective products can also cause harm and suffering to patients. If faulty medical equipment causes harm to a patient, then the manufacturer may be liable.