My law firm has handled medical negligence cases in Virginia for over 25 years and we have seen a lot of medical negligence…a whole lot! The most common cases we see can be grouped in the following five catagories:
1. Missed or Delayed Diagnosis: When a doctor misdiagnoses a condition (or fails to diagnose a serious disease for some time), the patient might miss treatment opportunities that could have prevented serious harm or even death. The key in proving a medical malpractice claim based on misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is to compare what the treating doctor did (or didn’t do) to how other competent doctors within the same speciality would have handled the case. If the delay or missed diagnosis caused injury or death, then you have a case.
2. Medication Errors: These problems can occur in many ways. First, the patient may be prescribed the wrong medication. Second, the patient may receive the correct drug but the wrong doseage or it may be given via the incorrect route (oral, IV, “sub-q” or subcutaneous, “IM” or intramuscular). These types of errors can be deadly.
3. Anesthesia Errors: Even a small error by the anesthesiologist can result in permanent injury, brain damage, or death. Anesthesia errors that occur during surgery include: (a) giving too much anesthesia to the patient; (b) failing to monitor the patient’s vital signs during the operation; or (c) improperly intubating patients (placing a tube in the trachea to assist with breathing).
4. Surgical Errors: A surgeon might be negligent during the operation itself (puncturing internal organs, operating on the wrong body part, or leaving surgical instruments in the body like clamps or sponges), or performing unnecessary surgery – remember the profit motive. Finally, surgery always increases the patient’s risk for infection and often a surgeon believes he/she has finished the job as soon as the surgery is over and fails to diagnose and treat post-operative infections which can dramatically lengthen the hospital stay and even result in death.
5. Negligence during Childbirth: A doctor’s negligence during childbirth can cause injury to the baby and harm to the mother. Common medical errors during childbirth include the physician or obstetrician’s: (a) failure to anticipate birth complications due to the baby’s large size; (b) failure to timely respond to signs of fetal distress; (c) failure to order a cesarean section when one was appropriate; and (d) improper use of forceps or a vacuum extractor.
My Take: Too many people are victims of medical negligence and incompetence. Don’t be a victim. Ask questions about the doctor you select. Ask the doctor about his/her experience. Keep you eyes wide open…your health and maybe your life depend on it.