Medical malpractice is a problem that pervades hospitals and health care centers around the United States. Patients assume their doctors are careful and will take all the proper steps when providing care. Unfortunately, health care providers do not always adhere to the professional standard of care. Every year, thousands of patients suffer serious harm and die because of medical malpractice: wrongful and negligent acts by doctors and other health care providers.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a tort, or wrongdoing, that occurs when a medical practitioner falls short of the professional standard of care in treating a patient. If a health care provider (usually a doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or nurse) does something that a reasonable and prudent doctor would not have done – or fails to do something that a reasonable and prudent doctor would have done – in the same or similar circumstances, it constitutes malpractice. When medical malpractice injures a patient, a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer can file a lawsuit against the doctor or medical facility to recover financial compensation for the injured patient.
How Preventable Errors Impact Victims and the Medical Field
Medical negligence, malpractice and preventable errors by physicians can cause serious harm to patients. Victims can suffer from medication mistakes, surgical errors, anesthesia errors, misdiagnoses, birth injuries, and many other examples of malpractice. Failing to provide the care that a patient needs can lead to more time spent in hospitals, serious injuries, and premature death.
Medical malpractice also has an economic impact. Experts have long argued that medical mistakes are a leading cause of rising health care costs.
How Many Diagnostic Errors Occur Annually in the U.S.?
A common type of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis. To state the obvious, the first step in treating a patient is diagnosing the patient’s condition that requires treatment. Coming to an accurate and timely diagnosis is essential for a patient to receive the treatment that he or she needs for an injury or disease. Diagnostic errors such as misreading test results or failing to order the proper tests can cause a patient to lose the opportunity for a cure by causing a misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or failure to diagnose.
According to a recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, about 1 in 18 patients who visit emergency rooms in the U.S. each year is misdiagnosed. This number represents nearly 6 percent of the estimated 130 million people who visit emergency rooms annually. The study found that around 7.4 million diagnostic errors are made per year, resulting in 2.6 million patients suffering harm that could have been prevented. This equates to about 1,400 diagnostic errors per emergency room each year in the U.S.
Frequently Misdiagnosed Conditions and Their Consequences
The extent of the patient’s harm resulting from a diagnostic error depends on the patient’s misdiagnosed condition, injury or illness. Many medical conditions require early detection and prompt treatment. If these conditions are misdiagnosed, the patient could suffer serious consequences. Cancers are often misdiagnosed, for example, resulting in a delayed diagnosis until the later stages of the disease. Delayed diagnosis can cause the patient to lose the opportunity to havelife-saving treatments, such as surgery.
Another commonly misdiagnosed condition is a heart attack. A negligent doctor may misdiagnose it as a less serious condition, like an upset stomach or muscle paint. This misdiagnosis can lead to the patient suffering permanent serious cardiac damage resulting in permanent disability or even death. Other examples of misdiagnosed conditions include infections, meningitis, pulmonary embolisms, aneurysms, Lyme disease and strokes. Failing to accurately diagnose these conditions can lead to a patient missing treatment opportunities that give the patient the greatest chance to avoid serious permanent injury.
Medication Error Facts and Statistics
Medication errors are another common type of medical malpractice. Examples include a doctor prescribing the incorrect medication and/or dosage, a pharmacy incorrectly filling a prescription, or a nurse administering a medicine to the wrong patient. According to the National Library of Medicine, approximately 7,000 to 9,000 people die from medication errors in the U.S. per year. Hundreds of other patients suffer harm but do not die as a result of the error. The estimated annual cost of medication errors exceeds $40 billion nationally.
Tracking the Impact of Medical Malpractice on Military Servicemembers
Members of the military unfortunately also can be the victims ofmedical malpractice at hospitals and health care centers dedicated to the care of active duty service members. One government report shows that troops have filed $2.16 billion in medical malpractice claims under a law that was passed in 2019 to compensate victims. The largest branch of the military, the Army, reported $845 million in lawsuits across 85 claims. The Navy and the Marine Corps reported $781 million in 73 claims. The Air Force reported $530 million in 69 claims.
Which States Had the Highest Rate of Medical Malpractice Incidents in 2022?
For the first nine months of 2022 (until September 30th), Texas had the highest rate of medical malpractice incidents in the country, with 2,591. California had the second-highest rate at 2,473. In these states, there were 388 and 747 medical malpractice payouts in 2022, respectively. Other top states for medical malpractice events were Ohio (1,851), Florida (1,624), Michigan (1,208), Colorado (1,174), Illinois (1,120) and Washington (1,040).
What to Do if You’ve Been Harmed by Medical Malpractice
You may be able to recover financial compensation as a victim of medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has been harmed by medical malpractice, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately. Depending on the situation, it may be advisable to take certain steps immediately to document the negligent care and the impact that it caused.
Contact a medical malpractice attorney well before the expiration of the statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania (two years unless the malpractice victim is a minor, in which case the statute of limitations does not expire until the minor’s 20th birthday). Investigating and filing a medical malpractice claim takes time and effort, so you want your lawyer to have as much time as possible before the statute of limitations expires to determine if your claim has merit and prepare the lawsuit.