MEDICAL MALPRACTICE AND PERSONAL INJURY LAW BLOG

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Signs of Medical Malpractice

It may be difficult to know if your injuries were caused by a medical mistake or if it was just a risk of surgery. However, there may be signs of medical malpractice. There can be some indication that your doctor was not following the proper medical standards or procedures in your care, which led to your injuries. 

Even if you are sure that your doctor made a mistake, a professional evaluation of your case by an experienced medical malpractice law firm can help you understand your options. Lawyers who have experience with medical malpractice cases just like yours can review your medical record, identify the errors, and file a lawsuit to help you recover money. If you think there were signs of medical malpractice in your care, contact Gilman & Bedigian today online or by phone at 800-529-6162.  

What Are Signs You May Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

Signs of medical malpractice can be obvious or subtle. Clear signs of malpractice could include a doctor admitting that they made a mistake. However, if a mistake happened when you were under anesthesia during surgery, you may have no idea what happened. Unfortunately, most malpractice cases involve a mistake that the patient may not understand, even if they see it. 

For example, if a doctor made a mistake on a prescription by writing up a dangerous drug interaction or dose, the patient may have no idea because they do not have the medical training to know what is a safe drug dose or interaction. Similarly, if a doctor does not order a standard diagnostic test, the patient may have no idea that any other doctor would have ordered the diagnostic test in a similar situation. Signs of possible medical malpractice could include:

  • You were not told about the risks
  • Your condition is getting worse
  • Different medical opinions
  • Distracted doctors and nurses
  • Treatment isn’t working
  • Diagnostic test results are wrong
  • Not enough staff
  • Doctor apologized 

These are just some signs that there may have been a problem in your medical care. It does not necessarily mean that you were a victim of medical malpractice but it may be enough to make you ask questions. If you want to know if you have a medical malpractice case, you can talk to a medical malpractice attorney for advice. A malpractice law firm will generally offer a free case evaluation to help you understand your rights and legal options. 

There Was a Risk You Were Never Told About

There are always risks associated with surgery and other types of medical care. Patients understand that a surgery isn’t risk-free. However, when there are risks of a certain procedure or treatment plan, the patient should be aware of the risks. If the patient suffers a complication that was not understood before, it may mean that the doctor failed to get proper informed consent

Informed consent means that the doctor tells the patient about the risks and benefits of treatment and the patient has a chance to agree to or deny the treatment. The idea of informed consent for doctors took hold over 100 years ago after a doctor removed a tumor when the patient only agreed to a diagnostic procedure. In the case of Schloendorff v. The Society of the New York Hospital (105 N.E. 92), the court found, ”every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent commits an assault for which he is liable in damages.”

Informed consent is more than just talking about possible risks or getting the patient to sign a waiver. Meaningful informed consent means making sure the patient understands the procedure and answering any questions. The basic elements of informed consent include:

  1. Understanding the nature of the treatment or procedure 
  2. Understanding the possible risks involved
  3. Benefits of treatment
  4. Other treatment alternatives

If you underwent a procedure and were injured by something that was never expected, anticipated, or acknowledged as a risk, you may not have had the proper information to allow you to make an informed choice in your medical care.

You Continue to Get Worse After Treatment

After treatment, you may expect things to get better. However, when things get worse instead of better, it may indicate that there is something else wrong. In some cases, getting worse is a possibility or even expected. In other cases, worsening conditions are a sign of medical malpractice. Some examples of why the patient doesn’t get better may include: 

A Second Opinion Is Totally Different

The purpose of a second opinion is to get a new diagnosis from a different doctor. A second opinion might be exactly what you are looking for if you are not sure about the first doctor’s treatment program. However, a second opinion after treatment may indicate one of the doctors was wrong to the point of medical malpractice. 

It is important to understand what the standard for medical malpractice is. Doctors can have differing opinions and different treatment plans. Just because two doctors disagree does not mean that one is wrong. Medical malpractice is based on the standard of care. Under the standard of care, a doctor may be responsible for injuries caused to the patient if they deviate from the standards of medical care under the circumstances. 

For example, if you go to the doctor and the doctor finds a suspicious tumor but does not take a biopsy or further diagnostic tests, you may trust your doctor. However, if you go to 10 other doctors and they all say they need to take immediate action, including diagnostics or a biopsy, that may indicate your first doctor deviated from standard care. If you were left under that doctor’s care without a second opinion, a cancerous tumor could have continued to develop and even spread to other parts of the body. 

Unfortunately, second opinions can be hard to come by. Most Americans have limited availability of medical care. Medical care is expensive in the U.S., with the country spending the most per capita of any other developed country. Your insurance policy may not allow you to get a second opinion without having to pay out-of-pocket. Even if you can get a second opinion, you may have to wait months to see the doctor or have to drive hours away. 

Your Doctor Is Distracted

Doctors have a lot of competing responsibilities. That is part of the job. However, sometimes a distracted, confused, or unresponsive doctor can fail to take proper care of their patients because of other problems. Medical care can be a stressful profession but if a doctor cannot provide the standard of care that others in the profession would provide under the same conditions, that doctor can be responsible for causing medical malpractice injuries. 

Sleep deprivation is a common problem for doctors. From the time a doctor starts their on-the-job training as a resident, they are expected to work long shifts with irregular schedules. Just like with drowsy driving, working in a detail-oriented environment can be difficult without enough sleep. Lack of sleep may increase the risk of making mistakes because doctors may have difficulty concentrating and performing complex tasks.

Another possibility is that your doctor has a substance abuse problem. If your doctor is under the influence of drugs, they may not be able to perform their job to the proper standards. According to a study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, 69% of surveyed doctors responded that they had a history of misusing prescription drugs. The doctors claimed to be using the drugs for pain management, distress, because of stress, to avoid withdrawal, or simply for recreational use. 

What are signs that your doctor might be distracted? A doctor could refer to you by the wrong name, discuss the wrong treatment, or think you have a different medical condition. If you tell the doctor they got it wrong, they may just wave it off by saying they were looking at the wrong chart. However, wrong-patient, wrong-site, and wrong-procedure errors are a serious problem in medical malpractice. 

Wrong Patient or Wrong Surgery

Unfortunately for many surgical malpractice victims, they never get a chance to correct their doctors because they are under anesthesia when the doctor makes the error. Wrong-side and wrong-patient injuries are known as “never events.” They are called never events because they should never happen but for negligence. 

According to a wrong-site surgery study, the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) showed 2,217 wrong-site surgical procedures over a 13-year period. Unfortunately, not all hospitals report wrong-site surgeries to the data bank. It is estimated that only about 1-in10 wrong-site surgeries are reported. The actual number of wrong-site, wrong-patient, and wrong-procedure accidents might be even higher. 

Hospital Is Understaffed

Understaffing is a big problem in the medical industry. In many cases, the decision to not have enough staff on hand is a financial decision to save money. If a hospital, nursing home, or care center can get by with fewer health care workers or nurses, they can save money for their stockholders. Unfortunately, these savings often come at the expense of proper patient care. 

Hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical care facilities are supposed to follow state and federal guidelines and make sure they have enough staff to meet the medical standard of care. This includes regular visits to patients in hospitals to take vitals, administer medicine, keep the patient clean and hydrated, and provide care when the patient needs. Similarly, in a nursing home, there needs to be enough staff to monitor patients, turn bed-bound patients to prevent bedsores, and help patients with their basic needs. 

If you were left unattended for long periods of time while in the hospital and you suffered a complication or infection, it may have been related to understaffing. 

The Doctor Said Sorry After Treatment

If you wake up from surgery and your doctor immediately begins to apologize, it can fill you with horror. However, a doctor saying sorry does not necessarily mean they committed medical malpractice. On the other hand, if a doctor knows they did something wrong, they may not admit it. A doctor saying sorry is actually a complex issue, with some states even creating laws that mean “sorry” cannot be used as evidence of malpractice. 

Instead of apologizing, it may be a sign that something is up if the doctor suddenly starts acting a lot nicer to the patient. If a doctor is normally short with the patient or not very friendly, suddenly acting very caring or helpful may mean that the doctor is now worried about a medical malpractice case because they know they did something wrong. 

Sorry Laws and Medical Malpractice

According to a CBS News report, nearly 40 states have laws that allow a doctor to say “sorry” for a bad diagnosis, medical outcome, or bad medical procedures. These laws generally prohibit the patient from later using the apology as evidence of medical malpractice. However, in medical malpractice cases that end up going to court, the “sorry” statement made little difference in when the patient won their case. Just because a doctor does or does not say sorry does not mean that the doctor didn’t commit medical malpractice. 

In The Role of Apology Laws in Medical Malpractice, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the article found that existing apology laws do not have their intended impacts for reducing malpractice rates and costs of medical malpractice. Instead, the article found most state’s only have “partial” apology laws that “do not protect the type of information sharing that meaningfully improves physician-patient relationships.”

Do You Match These Signs of Medical Malpractice?  

These signs may not be proof of a medical malpractice case but they could mean you should look a little closer at your care. Questions about medical malpractice can be complicated. A medical malpractice attorney can evaluate your case, review your medical records, and have a medical expert take a look at your case. This can give you a better idea to know if you might have a valid claim and how much your malpractice case might be worth. 

Talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about whether your injuries were caused by malpractice and how to recover for your losses. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.

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