What is considered medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice is when a healthcare professional’s care and treatment of the patient is below the community accepted standard of care.

In an ideal world we should be able to trust those responsible for our medical care such as Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, hospital staff and professional caregivers. We want to believe they will always make the right decisions and take the best course of action when it comes to our healthcare.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury or harm to a patient.

Unfortunately, in the public healthcare system and the private sector, Doctors and Nurses are often working long hours and treating many different patients. Mistakes such as incorrect medication, incorrect doses, missed symptoms and other errors may occur due to tiredness, complacency, lack of care or other reasons. However, medical practitioners have a responsibility to their patients and negligence can be harmful to their patients. To prove a medical malpractice case, then some harm or injury must have been caused to the patient.

Proving medical malpractice requires specialist medical malpractice lawyers like the team at Stalwart Law.

What are the most common types of medical malpractice?

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. 
  • Failure to treat.
  • Prescription drug errors.
  • Surgical or procedural errors.
  • Childbirth injuries.

A common example of misdiagnosis is when a patient comes to the doctor’s office with chest pain and the doctor diagnoses the ailment as indigestion when the pain is really the early signs of a heart attack. If the patient soon suffers a heart attack which could have been prevented, then this could warrant a case of medical malpractice.

Delayed diagnoses occur when a patient seeks medical treatment for symptoms, and yet the condition causing those symptoms go undiagnosed for an unreasonable amount of time. Often, this may result in the condition becoming serious or life threatening.

Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can occur if a medical practitioner fails to order tests or orders incorrect tests. It can also occur if test results are mixed up at the lab or if the wrong drugs are prescribed.

Other examples of cases that could lead to a medical malpractice claim include unnecessary surgery leaving you unable to perform your daily functions, a mistake during surgery which leaves the patient disabled or failing to carry out an operation in time causing unnecessary harm to the patient.

Surgical and procedural errors are normally very serious, they include issues such as: 

  • Injuring a nerve during surgery.
  • Administering too much or too little medication, i.e. anesthesia error.
  • Performing an incision at the wrong location.
  • Leaving a piece of surgical equipment, e.g. sponges or instruments, inside a patient.
  • Operating on the wrong body part.

These types of errors can have long term negative effects for the patient and can be a case for medical malpractice resulting in compensation to recover loss of earnings, medical expenses, pain, emotional trauma and reduced quality of life.

Medical Malpractice with prescription drugs

The three most common prescription drug dispensing errors are: dispensing an incorrect medication, dosage strength or dosage form; miscalculating a dose; and failing to identify drug interactions or contraindications. In some cases, incorrect dosages or prolonged use of strong drugs may lead to addiction.

Birth Injury Caused by Medical Negligence - Stalwart

Common types of birth injury caused by medical negligence

Birth injuries caused by medical malpractice often turn what should be a happy and joyous event into a sad and confusing state of affairs. Birth injuries can occur to either the Mother, the baby or both. Common types of birth injuries to the Mother are vaginal tears which are not usually due to medical negligence. Other common types of birth injury incurred by the Mother include postpartum haemorrhage and ruptured uterus.

The most common birth injuries to babies include head injuries from misuse of forceps or vacuums. These can be as serious as brain injury or brain bleeds and lead to devastation for the family. Other common birth problems are delaying an emergency C-section or improper fetal monitoring during labor. Failing to diagnose prenatal conditions such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or maternal health conditions which may have a negative effect for Mother and child.

When you are excitedly expecting an addition to your family, it is heart-breaking to suddenly be dealing with an injured baby and a potentially huge hospital bill. The emotional trauma experienced from the fear of not knowing what will happen to your baby or how you will be able to pay the bills can last for years, even if the baby recovers and the final outcome is positive.

Some examples of birth injuries caused by medical malpractice include:

Cerebral Palsy
Out of every 1,000 children born, 2-3 may have cerebral palsy, characterized by lack of motor skill development, weak muscles, and muscle spasms. In many cases, cerebral palsy is the result of damage to the brain that occurred during birth. Improper monitoring during labor, inadequate birthing techniques, and failure to monitor fetal distress during labor can all lead to cerebral palsy. While surgery may help the child, there is no cure and cerebral palsy often requires a lifetime of therapy. Cerebral palsy can lead to additional health issues such as vision and hearing impairments, learning disabilities, and speech problems.

Facial Paralysis
If an infant’s face has too much pressure placed on it during the delivery period, damaged facial nerves can result. Facial paralysis is more common when forceps or vacuum extraction is used to pull the baby out. The baby may have no ability to move the affected side of the face at all, including closing the eye. The effects may either be temporary or permanent.

Oxygen Deprivation
Oxygen deprivation during delivery can lead to brain injuries. In turn, these brain injuries can cause cerebral palsy or chronic seizures. If the doctor fails to monitor the infant during and after birth, or allows the baby to remain in the birth canal too long, brain injuries may result. Physical problems, as well as intellectual disabilities, can be the lasting consequences of even mild oxygen deprivation. This can also be a result of birth induction and/or a very fast labor. When the baby is further down the birth canal than the Mother’s uterus has dilated, her pelvic bone can press down on the baby’s skull causing oxygen deprivation. When the baby Is deprived of oxygen, their heartbeat will drop requiring immediate action. If the baby’s heart rate is not being monitored, this can be fatal.

Brachial Plexus
These injuries involve damage to the nerves that go from the upper spine to the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. This damage can be temporary or can result in a permanent disability. The mildest form of such an injury involves the stretching of the nerve, while more severe cases involve torn or ruptured nerves which fail to heal correctly. In extremely severe cases, complete paralysis results when the nerve roots are totally dislodged from the spine.

Fractured Collarbones
Bone fractures can occur during a complicated delivery, particularly a fractured collarbone. While such fractures generally heal on their own, the baby may need to be immobilized to treat the fracture.

Spinal Cord Injuries
These are among the most serious of birth injuries and may be due to the overly forceful use of forceps that cause nerve or cord damage. A spinal cord injury in a newborn baby can cause paralysis and neurological problems.

What to do if you think you are a victim of medical malpractice

Call a specialist medical malpractice attorney like the team at Stalwart Law. Our lawyers will listen to you and get a clear understanding of your situation, research the evidence available and help decipher the best course of action to secure the maximum amount of compensation available for your particular case. 

* The articles provided on the Stalwart Law website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used as professional legal advice or as a substitute for legal consultation with a qualified attorney.  

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