Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional negligently fails to act within the required standard of care. It is the cause of approximately 100,000 deaths annually in the U.S. Visits to emergency rooms can be particularly risky since almost half of all medical errors that result in death are emergency room related. Deaths also occur in hospitals. The main errors leading to death are diagnostic and medication errors.
John Hopkins estimates that between 40,000 and 80,000 deaths a year are due to misdiagnosis in the hospital, an emergency room or urgent care facility. For example:
- A person goes to an emergency room with a headache and is sent home with pain medication. No tests are performed. The ER doctor missed diagnosing a brain aneurysm which later kills the patient.
- An ICU patient receiving oxygen has increased difficulty breathing. The only treatment provided is increasing the flow of oxygen. The doctor fails to diagnose a pulmonary embolism which ultimately causes the persons death.
- A person visits the ER complaining of chest pain. Tests are performed and reviewed by the doctor who concludes the patient is suffering from indigestion and sends the patient home. Later, after the person dies, it is discovered the doctor misread one of the test results that clearly indicated the person was having a heart attack.
- Delayed diagnosis occurs when a woman finds a lump in her breast. The doctor assures her it is nothing to worry about. When the correct diagnosis of breast cancer is finally made, it is too late for effective treatment and the woman, who could have been successfully treated if properly diagnosed, dies instead.
An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you whether or not the facts of your case support a wrongful death lawsuit due to the death of your loved one caused by a diagnostic error.
Many types of fatal medication errors occur both in and out of hospital settings. A few general examples are as follows:
- A medication nurse in the hospital either gives the wrong medication to the wrong patient or the wrong dosage to the right patient.
- A patient has an untreated allergic reaction to a medication.
- Two medications are given at the same time and interact with each other in such a way as to cause death.
- Hospital patients are not properly monitored after medication is administered, so side effects are not observed and proper treatment to counteract the adverse effect is not performed.
It behooves you and your loved ones to be aware of problems that can occur. Pay close attention to how you are being treated. Ask a lot of questions and demand explanations. Ultimately, if you suspect someone you love died due to medical malpractice, consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. There may be time limits on bringing a wrongful death lawsuit. An attorney will evaluate the facts of your case and advise you how to proceed. Contact Davis Levin and Livingston for a free consultation.