Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other medical/healthcare profession deviates from the acceptable standard of care. This standard of care is established through the medical community's general acceptance of patient treatment when they are within the same or similar circumstances of other patients. When the standard of care is breached, there must be an injury caused by this breach. If a victim can prove that he or she incurred damages because of this injury, a successful medical malpractice claim may be possible.
There are many types of situations which could give rise to a medical malpractice claim in Philadelphia. The following list is by no means exhaustive but serves as an illustration of some of the most common types of medical malpractice cases seen in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Prenatal Care Malpractice
Proper prenatal care is essential for ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Medical advancements have made pregnancy and delivery much safer but unfortunately, healthcare professionals do still make mistakes, and these mistakes can have serious consequences.
Routine testing, screening, and supervision can help mitigate many common pregnancy complications. However, it is critical that all tests and screening be performed accurately, interpreted accurately, and that any complications are accurately diagnosed. A failure to diagnose a pregnancy-related complication can result in harm either to the fetus or the mother during the pregnancy and/or harm to either the baby or the mother during the delivery process.
Misdiagnosis of a pregnant woman can lead to serious negative outcomes. As stated earlier, there are common complications which can arise during pregnancy, along with rare, more serious complications. Many can be managed fairly simply, but a timely correct diagnosis is key.
Medication errors, which can involve ordering or dispensing the correct medication in the wrong dosage (either too high or too low for the particular issue of the particular patient), or ordering or dispensing the incorrect medication can have a special risk to a pregnant woman and her fetus. Many pharmaceutical drugs and over-the-counter medications that may be safe for most of the population cannot be taken during pregnancy because of potential risks specific to a developing fetus.
Philadelphia Diagnostic Errors
Advancements in medicine now allow us to live longer, healthier lives. However, in order for patients to take full advantage of such advancements, correct, timely diagnosis is essential. Recent research has found that diagnostic errors (including misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and a failure to diagnose) still happen far too frequently in the U.S.
A misdiagnosis occurs when a physician or health care professional diagnoses a medical condition in the patient when a patient does, in fact, have a medical condition, but the diagnosis is for a condition other than the one the patient is actually suffering from. The most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions in the United States are cancer, vascular events, and infections, according to researched published in 2019. The most frequent infection in misdiagnosis cases was sepsis, the most frequent vascular event is a stroke, and the most frequently misdiagnosed cancer is lung cancer.
In a delayed diagnosis, a health care professional may eventually diagnose the correct underlying medical condition after first diagnosing the wrong condition or finding no diagnosis to be necessary. In the study of misdiagnosis cited above, researchers found that lung cancer was one of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions.
Failure to diagnose can involve a case in which a physician fails to diagnose a medical condition altogether or fails to diagnose complication(s) from an underlying medical condition. The patient may eventually seek a second opinion and obtain the correct diagnosis, obtain an accurate diagnosis as the result of needing emergency care, or may never receive an accurate diagnosis, and loved ones may learn of the underlying condition after receiving autopsy results.
Philadelphia Prescription Errors
Advances in pharmaceutical engineering have come a very long way in the past few decades and have made significant strides—dramatically affecting the prognosis of diagnoses. However, while these medications have the potential to be extremely beneficial, a mistake related to prescription medication can cause serious adverse health effects.
A prescription error occurs when a patient is administered or prescribed the incorrect amount or duration of a medication, an incorrect medication, or both. Prescription errors can occur in a variety of healthcare settings, such as emergency rooms, hospitals, nursing homes, primary care offices, and pharmacies. There are myriad root causes of these errors, including communication errors. Some of the most frequently reported prescription errors include, but are not limited to:
- Prescribing the wrong drug
- Prescribing the wrong duration of the correct drug
- Prescribing the wrong dosage of the correct drug
- Prescribing the correct dosage/duration of the correct drug to the wrong patient
- Prescribing a drug to a patient with a known allergy or contraindication
Philadelphia Emergency Room Errors
The Emergency Room of a hospital can be an incredibly chaotic environment. Often times these units can be short-staffed and have a patient-to-provider ratio that makes providing the proper care very challenging. As a result of this, the emergency room can be a prime place for medical mistakes.
Common errors which occur in the ER can include but are certainly not limited to the following.
- Treatment provided to the wrong patient: when records are not properly organized and protocol for identifying patients (for example, such as a barcoded bracelet worn around the patient's wrist) are not followed, it is possible that medical treatment (including prescription medication or a minor surgical procedure) can be performed on the wrong patient
- Prescription errors: as discussed above, communication errors play a major factor in contributing to prescription errors in a health care setting. It can be difficult to give and understand verbal orders in such an environment, which can lead to incorrect medication and/or dosage instructions
- Diagnostic errors: in the ER, physicians must see many patients in a relatively short amount of time. They must devote sufficient time and attention to listening to the symptoms reported by patients and conducting a thorough examination in order to make a correct diagnosis. Misdiagnosis and/or failure to diagnose a serious medical condition when a patient presents in the ER can have a serious impact on prognosis.
Defective Pharmaceutical Drugs
Many Americans incorporate pharmaceutical drugs as part of their regular health maintenance routine. The majority of the time, these medications do exactly what they are intended to do and help us to live longer, healthier lives. However, in some cases, serious issues can arise in the way a drug was created, manufactured, packaged, sold, or prescribed, leading to serious complications.
In order to be sold in the United States, a pharmaceutical drug must go through an approval process, which is overseen by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). After a drug has been approved for sale, the FDA will continue to monitor the drug, reviewing reports submitted by patients, health care workers, and others. When the FDA has determined that too many adverse events have been reported related to a drug, it may issue a recall of that drug.
"Adverse events" encompass a wide range of reactions that a patient may have to a drug. Defective pharmaceutical drugs have caused a wide range of damage to victims, including permanent hair loss, infertility, disability, stroke, heart attack, and death.
A "defect" can occur during a variety of stages from production to distribution of a drug. A defect may occur when a drug is being designed—that is, a drug may be created and tested, but serious adverse reactions may go unnoticed. A defect may also occur when a drug is being manufactured—a malfunction or adulteration could occur to the drug or the packaging, rendering it defective somehow. A defect may also occur in the way a drug is marketed, sold, or prescribed. For example, a drug could be marketed or prescribed as safe for all groups, when in fact it poses a certain risk to a specific group, such as pregnant women.
During surgical procedures, anesthesia may be administered so the patient will become unconscious. This allows the doctors to operate without the patient moving around and allows the patient to avoid the physical pain and sensations of surgery. However, when an anesthesiologist makes a mistake, it can cause serious injury or even death.
Generally, errors associated with local anesthesia are mild and may include painful injections, nausea, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetics. Mistakes involving general or regional anesthesia can be more serious and could lead to permanent injuries or death.
Anesthesia has a powerful effect on the body's systems and has the capacity to stop the patient's breathing. While the patient is unconscious, it is up to the doctors and medical team to keep the patient alive and healthy. Administering the wrong anesthesia, administering too much anesthesia, or not adequately monitoring the patient's vital signs can lead to serious injuries, including allergic reactions, brain damage, organ damage, seizures, stroke, coma, or even death.
Wrongful Pregnancy Malpractice in Philadelphia
Individuals and families may take measures to make sure they do not become pregnant such as a vasectomy or tubal ligation. Additionally, some may pursue an abortion to terminate a pregnancy.
If these procedures are not properly performed or the doctor is negligent in treating the patients, a patient or partner can become unexpectedly pregnant. An unplanned pregnancy can threaten the life and health of the mother and cause the family to accumulate expensive medical costs for the birth and care of a child. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to pursue a particular type of malpractice claim for what is known as "wrongful pregnancy."
Plastic Surgery Malpractice in Philadelphia
Any plastic surgery procedures can involve potential malpractice that results in serious injury, permanent scarring, or death. The severity of the injuries may depend on when the problem was discovered and how soon proper medical treatment was sought. One potential complication following plastic surgery is a post-surgical infection. Infections can cause serious damage after a surgery, even for mildly invasive procedures. The risk of infection can increase based on the patient's health, medications, age, environment, and aftercare. An infection may not be evident to the patient until days or even weeks later. When an infection spreads, it can lead to permanent tissue damage, nerve damage, organ damage, and require surgery to remove the necrotic tissue and stop the infection from spreading.
Plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons Pennsylvania are generally required to follow the standard of care as another doctor would act in the same or similar circumstances. When a surgeon goes outside the standard of care which causes injury or harm to the patient, the doctor may be liable for the damages.