More than 250,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of medical errors (source). A study conducted by Johns Hopkins lists medical errors as the third leading killer in the U.S., ranking behind heart disease and cancer. Medical errors include undetected complications from surgery, mistakes in medications or dosages given to patients, and errors in judgment when treating an illness or condition. Improper treatment of disease costs lives and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
It is difficult to pin down exactly how many times improper treatment of disease occurred and resulted in patient death or disablement due to the United States’ Centers For Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]’s coding system for recording death certificate data. It does not make any distinctions regarding the type of medical error. What’s more, reporting methods may not reflect the full impact of medical errors that lead to death. Researchers suspect that the numbers may be even greater.
What is Improper Treatment of Disease?
This broad term that falls into the category of medical errors, includes many types of mistakes including:
- Antibiotics are not started prior to surgery so that infection can be prevented.
- Doctor does not order diagnostic tests, or appropriate diagnostic tests prior to initiating medication (i.e. prescribes antibiotics without taking a culture sample of an infection)
- Does not begin treatment for an illness or infection in a prompt or expedient manner
- Does not refer patient to the appropriate specialist
- Cannot or doesn’t try to identify the source or cause of an illness, medical condition, or infection
- Fails to address the cause or source of a medical condition, infection, or illness
- Prescribes medication that is not appropriate for the medical condition, illness, or infection
- Does not recognize that a condition, illness or infection is serious or urgent
These are some of the most common examples of medical error, but this is not a comprehensive list. If you feel that your medical issue was not properly addressed, regarded, or handled, you may have a legal case and should talk to an attorney. While not all situations that appear or feel like an improper handling of your medical condition, some are. So, talk to an attorney – even if you aren’t certain that you have a case.
What Are the Causes or Reasons for Improper Treatment of Disease?
Issues leading to the improper treatment of a disease or condition include:
- Inexperienced health care professionals (doctors, nurses, etc.)
- Complex care
- Rarity of disease
- Failure of automated reporting systems or EHRs
- Unfamiliar with drugs (particularly potent or powerful medications)
- New procedures
- Complex technologies
- Communication problems (foreign language, inability for the patient to understand terms, inability for health care professional to adequately convey information to patient in terms they understand, etc.)
- Illegible handwriting
- Health care professional is fatigued, sleep deprived, ill, etc.
- Medications with similar names
- Prolonged stay in hospital
- Inaccurate documentation
- Inappropriate proportions of nurses to patients
- Patient’s failure to follow health care professional’s instructions (complete bedrest, strict diet, etc.)
- Negligence or carelessness
Improper treatment can also stem from misdiagnosis. A misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis can leave a condition untreated, leaving the patient vulnerable to any debilitating effects of that undiagnosed disease or disorder. An article published in 2010, listed the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions:
- Myocardial infarction
- Pulmonary emboli
- Cardiovascular disease
However, it should be noted that just because a patient, during their medical care, has an adverse event, it does not mean that there was a medical error. However, all possibilities should be explored.
How Is a Medical Error Case Established?
When presenting a case of improper treatment of disease or medical condition, there are four things that must be established to win a medical malpractice case:
- There actually was a doctor-patient relationship. The person was a patient of the doctor, they saw the doctor in an official capacity for health care or to address certain problems.
- The treatment that the patient received was not consistent with professionally recommended treatment options or did not meet the standards of quality or care regarded as appropriate by the medical community.
- The improper treatment or medical error is directly linked to the illness, medical condition, or injury.
- The cause of the harm, disability, or death of the patient is because the doctor did not treat them properly.
If you feel that you have been the victim of a medical error, we can help. Call The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond for a free consultation. If your medical condition or disease was treated improperly by a health care professional, and you lost a loved one or were harmed as a result, you may be entitled to compensation.
Our caring, professional attorneys will review your case and help you explore your options. Don’t wait another day; call now.