A study by Johns Hopkins revealed that medical errors in the U.S. cause as many as 250,000 deaths every year.
Other studies have had difficulty confirming this estimate; hospital records usually do not list the medical errors that their employees commit.
As a result, many medical errors go unreported. Patients and their families might never receive compensation for the harm caused by these errors.
Here is a guide to some of the most common medical errors that patients face.
What Constitutes a Medical Error?
A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of medical treatment. Doctors count adverse events as errors, even if they go undetected or do not harm the patient.
A medical error does not necessarily equate to medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is a legal term for negligence committed by a healthcare professional. To constitute medical malpractice, an error must result from a failure to provide reasonable care under the circumstances.
Patients must suffer an injury for malpractice. Harmless errors and reasonable mistakes usually do not support a malpractice claim.
What Are the Different Types of Medical Errors?
Medical errors fall into three categories:
Diagnosis errors can happen when a doctor misdiagnoses or fails to diagnose your injury, illness, or medical condition. Testing errors also fall within the category of diagnosis errors.
Treatment errors can arise from any kind of treatment, including:
Physicians, dentists, nurses, technicians, physical therapists, and other non-physician medical providers can commit treatment errors.
Before providing treatment, doctors must obtain informed consent from patients.
Informed consent requires the doctor to discuss the treatment with the patient, including:
- The nature of the treatment
- Alternative treatments
- Risks of adverse side effects or complications
- The probability of success for the treatment
Communication errors happen when the doctor provides treatment without obtaining informed consent. They can also happen when medical providers miscommunicate while providing treatment.
What Are Some Common Medical Errors?
Medical malpractice claims and complaints to state medical licensing boards center around a common set of errors, including:
Failure to Diagnose
When a physician misses a diagnosis, your treatment can be delayed. This delay could allow your condition to worsen. Even if it does not worsen, you may suffer through the condition until you finally receive a correct diagnosis.
Failure to diagnose can also stem from lab errors. If a lab misanalyzes a sample or mixes up samples, the lab can provide incorrect results to a doctor.
Prescription errors can take a few forms:
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Prescribing the wrong dose
- Failing to monitor the patient for side effects
- Failing to review the patient’s records for allergies or adverse drug interactions
Prescription errors also include situations in which pharmacists incorrectly fill a correct prescription.
Communication Errors Among Providers
Doctors need a lot of support. Specialists, nurses, technicians, labs, and therapists might assist or consult on a case.
Communication errors among these medical providers can lead to some of the most notorious medical errors. For example, wrong-site surgeries, prescription errors, and mismatched transfusions often result from communication breakdowns.
Inadequate Postoperative Care
Pressures on doctors and hospitals from insurance companies often result in shortcuts. Nurses and technicians might not monitor patients as closely as they reasonably should. Doctors may discharge patients too quickly after surgeries. Any one of these mistakes can lead to drastic consequences for patients.
How to Recover Compensation for Medical Errors
Doctors often compound medical errors by concealing mistakes from the patient. As a result, you might not detect the error for months or even years after it happens.
You have a limited time to sue for medical malpractice. The statute of limitations in Florida starts running on the date you discovered or reasonably should have discovered the mistake. If your medical malpractice claim is successful, you can recover compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering related to the mistake.
If you suspect your doctor committed a medical error, you should seek a second medical opinion. Failing to deal with obvious signs of medical error could start the statute of limitations running.