According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), medical errors “are a leading cause of death in the United States… At least 44,000 and perhaps as many as 98,000 Americans die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors. Costs attributable to medical errors are estimated at between $17 billion and $29 billion, according to the IOM.
Many of Florida’s most dangerous doctors continue to practice and the state watchdog is asleep on the job. There are 1,555 physicians who have been disciplined by Florida’s state medical and osteopathic boards for incompetence, misprescribing drugs, sexual misconduct, criminal convictions, ethical lapses and other offenses. Many were not required to stop practicing, even temporarily.
Medical malpractice is professional negligence by act or omission by a health care provider in which the treatment provided falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient, with most cases involving medical error. This means a doctor or medical professional did something his or her peers wouldn’t have. Medical professionals may obtain professional liability insurances to offset the risk and costs of lawsuits based on medical malpractice.
Many doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, and pharmacists take great pride in their work and treat their patients with respect and care and as a result, save thousands of lives every year. Unfortunately, not all medical professionals exhibit this type of concern, which can have life-threatening consequences for patients. Medical malpractice is a term that encompasses an array of negligent or reckless behavior by medical professionals. Below, we’ve included some information about a few of the most common and dangerous examples of medical malpractice.
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A large percentage of medical malpractice claims involve surgical errors, such as:
These kinds of mistakes can have devastating consequences for a patient’s health, especially for those receiving emergency treatment. Many suffer excruciating pain and avoidable complications as a result.
Another common type of medical malpractice involves the improper administration of anesthesia. Anesthetic drugs induce unconsciousness and so allow patients to avoid the pain of operations. However, the appropriate types and doses of the drugs vary considerably depending on a person’s sex, weight, height, and general health. Furthermore, patients must be monitored throughout their procedures to ensure that they don’t experience any negative side effects. Because administering anesthesia is so complicated, it is critical that anesthesiologists follow the necessary standards and procedures. Failing to do so can cause serious health problems including brain damage, tooth damage, and allergic reactions. The most frightening possibility, however, is anesthesia awareness, which occurs when a patient is not given a large enough dose of the drug and so is physically aware of the operation as it is occurring, but is unable to talk or move.
The most common errors leading to these complications include:
To collect compensation for the losses incurred as a result of an anesthesiologist’s negligence, a plaintiff may need to enlist the aid of an expert witness who can testify as to the appropriate standard of care.
Misdiagnosing a patient is another common medical malpractice charge. Heart conditions and cancer are especially prone to misdiagnosis because these diseases share a number of symptoms with other illnesses. However, a doctor’s failure to order tests, scans, or biopsies in violation of protocol or a patient’s wishes can support a claim of medical negligence.
Other common claims against medical professionals involve medical errors, such as:
Usually, medication errors are indicative of a breakdown in communications between a doctor and a pharmacy. Illegible handwriting often contributes to medication mix-ups as does a lack of pharmaceutical training or supervision.
Although relatively rare in comparison to surgical and medication errors, physician negligence can and does lead to birth injuries. For example, failing to monitor a fetus’ or mother’s progress during childbirth can have devastating consequences for both the mother and child. The former could suffer significant blood loss, while the latter could sustain brain damage from a lack of oxygen. In these types of cases, a child’s parents are required to bring the malpractice suit on the behalf of the child to cover the cost of ongoing medical costs and pain and suffering.
In some states, plaintiffs injured by a medical professional’s negligence can only collect a certain amount of damages. Fortunately, Georgia does not have a cap on the amount of economic and noneconomic damages that a plaintiff can collect. The state does, however, limit the amount of punitive damages that an injured party can collect to $250,000. Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where a defendant can demonstrate that a doctor’s conduct was especially egregious and are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. In cases where a plaintiff can provide evidence that a defendant intended to do harm, a court may allow punitive damages to exceed the $250,000 cap.
In Georgia, a patient injured by a medical professional’s negligence must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the injury, although in some cases, patients have five years from the date of the error to file a claim. There are a few exceptions, including when:
To bring a successful claim, a plaintiff must also file an affidavit prepared by a qualified medical expert who can attest to at least one negligent act committed by the defendant. Generally, these documents must be submitted with a plaintiff’s complaint. However, in rare situations, including when a plaintiff only recently hired an attorney it is possible to request a 45 day extension.
Everyday, patients put their trust in doctors, nurses, and surgeons to ease their pain or cure an illness. Unfortunately, some medical practitioners violate this trust by failing to adhere to safety protocols and procedures that were put in place to protect the health of patients. Being the victim of medical malpractice can take a significant physical, emotional, and financial toll, so if you live in Chatham or Glynn Counties and were the victim of a healthcare professional’s negligence, please contact the Law Offices of John M. Phillips by completing one of our online contact forms or by calling (912) 444-4444 and we will help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can explain your legal options.