National Medical Malpractice Awareness Month
7/1/2016

It is difficult for most people to believe that medical errors are the third most common cause of death in the United States. Only cancer and heart disease result in more deaths. A study was recently published on the subject. It showed that over 439,000 patients die annually in American hospitals as a direct result of medical errors.

This study is one among many which illustrate medical treatment can result in a preventable death or a life altering injury, and medical malpractice is most often the cause. The families represented by law firms in medical malpractice cases have a strong desire to discover exactly what occurred with their loved one and why it happened. The reason for what happened can usually be found in the medical records pertaining to the treatment provided. These records are able to be obtained during the course of doing an investigation for a medical malpractice claim.

Recurring Mistakes
There are a number of different things that could result in medical malpractice. One of the most common causes in communication breakdowns. This is something law firms representing victims of malpractice and their families most often see as they practice in this area of the law.

In one instance, a patient having a common procedure to install a heart catheter died. The reason was the attending nurse failed to inform the treating physician when the patient’s pulse decreased to dangerous levels. This happened even with the physician giving specific written orders to be contacted if the patient’s pulse went below a certain threshold. By the time the nurse finally contacted the doctor, the patient was too far gone for any damage to be reversed. The patient who had undergone the procedure died within a few hours. It was a death that was tragic and preventable.

Another common cause of medical errors result from poor communication of essential information during a hospital’s shift changes. These shift changes occur regularly for the medical staff and nursing staff.

In once incident, the failure to properly communicate the results of radiology testing to a patient and their physician caused a death. It was a patient with a highly curable type of lung cancer. Medical treatment was sought by a man because he was coughing up blood. He was given a chest X-ray, and it indicated a small tumor present in one of his lungs. His situation was very treatable. Neither the patient or the treating physician was given the results of the X-ray. When the man returned for a follow-up examination nine months later, he was given another X-ray. The mass on the man’s lung had grown and spread. His condition was no longer able to be treated. The man died as a result of delayed diagnosis.

What Can Be Done
In many cases, medical errors can be prevented when a patient has an advocate stay with them during their time at a hospital. The advocate should remain at the side of the patient and ask the medical staff questions. They should try to discover what the medical staff is doing and why they are doing it. An advocate needs to speak up if they have any concerns. Those who have a loved one in the hospital should be informed about their condition, treatments, and all possible outcomes. It’s essential to remember the majority of medical professionals provide excellent high-quality care. In many cases, lawyers often see the same medical practitioners responsible for repeatedly committing medical malpractice.