Three words that should never occur in the same sentence: common, medical, and malpractice. Obviously, the idea of something being common is relative. Medical mistakes are not as common as cigarette butts. Yet they are far too common. Indiana malpractice attorneys and personal injury lawyers have too much to do.
In 2000, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that the number of deaths resulting from medical error was, conservatively, somewhere between 44,000 and 98,000 annually. Does that count as common?
What are some of the most common allegations for malpractice? According to Florence Kavaler and Allen D. Spiegel in their 2003 book Risk Management In Health Care Institutions, these are the top 5:
- Complications following surgery
- Surgical mistake
- Failure to diagnose cancer
- Failure to diagnose fracture
- Birth related improper treatment
Surgical Complications and Mistakes
These are two separate issues but certainly related. Post-op complications can be general or specific to the particular surgical procedure. Some of the most common problems are fever, infection, embolism, and deep vein thrombosis. These complications happen most often within the few days following surgery.
Surgical mistakes can be inadvertent. Though unintentional, a mistake is still malpractice. It could be due to irresponsibility but not necessarily.
Given the number of elective surgeries each year it comes as no surprise that this would be a large part of the annual medical malpractice statistics. Eye surgeries like Lasik, cosmetic surgery such as breast augmentation, and gastric bypass are just a few of the procedures plagued by error.
All surgeries have inherent risk involved. Patients are counseled about this, or should be, prior to having a surgical procedure done. That inherent risk does not include negligence, lack of proper training, or oversight. Rightfully so, surgeons are subject to high standards and go through years of schooling. Every patient has the right to expect their health care provider to know what they are doing, during or following surgery.
Failure to Diagnose Cancer
Misdiagnosis with regards to cancer is especially serious. With more than a half-million deaths each year from cancer, a misdiagnosis rate of more than 10% accounts for a potentially staggering number of deaths.
Any misdiagnosis is a real issue. However, given the potential for fatality and the need to act in a timely fashion, there is little margin for getting it wrong with this disease. It is critical that cancer screenings are accurate and that the disease can be addressed in an early stage.
Failure to Diagnose Fracture or Dislocation
This category of misdiagnosis is most common in general practice. Though it may seem less serious than when dealing with a disease such as cancer, if a physician misses a spinal fracture, a patient could suffer terrible consequences such as paralysis or even death. In less serious instances, a patient could end up suffering with a life of chronic pain because an injury was not properly diagnosed and treated.
Birth Related Improper Treatment
Injury to a baby during the course of delivery is tragic. Birth injuries may result in lifelong disabilities or loss of life. Though negligence by the delivering physician or medical staff is a possibility, unexpected complications occur. These complications could be due to a pre-existing condition of the mother or fetus. Sometimes the baby is larger than expected or the umbilical cord interferes with the baby's ability to breathe. As in all situations, medical professionals are expected to deal with the unexpected.
Doctors and hospitals do an amazing job most of the time. Though our health care system is in need of a major overhaul, our health care is still outstanding. Medical errors are, more often than not, preventable. Most care providers are doing all they can to make improvements. Hopefully, a time is coming when "common medical malpractice" is a rarely heard phrase.