A patient goes to the doctor or hospital, trusting the ability of the healthcare professional in curing any ailment. Complete trust is placed upon the doctor's skills and knowledge, his specialty, and the various professional degrees suffixed to the doctor's name. Most of the time, a patient goes to a specific hospital or doctor based on their reputation. The number of healed patients, the number of successful surgeries all play a big role, the bigger the name, the higher the expectations by the patient and family members. But what if the doctor or the hospital fails to carry out the expected duties in saving a life or properly treating an ailment?

Everybody has read the horrific tabloid stories about surgeons removing the wrong organ or, perhaps just as horrific, patients not being anesthetized properly and feeling every ounce of pain during an operation but unable to alert anyone.

According to WHO, medical negligence causes nearly 2.6 million deaths a year (WHO news release on 13 September 2019).

This number is scary high when compared to deaths related to seasonal _u (6,50,000) (WHO news release on 13 December 2017) and road accidents (1.35 million) (WHO news release on 7 February 2020). Medical Malpractice is a dainty issue most of us would rather never think about.

It is indeed a perplexing issue as medicine is far from a perfect science. In most cases, the professional will have to take a trial and error approach, eradicating one possible diagnosis at a time. The trying of alternatives until the goal is attained, be it diagnosis or treatment, is very different from improper or negligent care, despite the fine line between the two. Therefore, the official charged with investigating Medical Malpractice has to be extremely skilled.

"Medical negligence is when a healthcare professional causes a harm to a patient due to ignorance or a harm occurs unknowingly or not taking a diligent action that could have reduced the discomfort or life threating complication."

"Medical malpractice occurs when the healthcare professional is aware of the complications or potential consequences and still proceed."

The most common examples of Medical Malpractice or Negligence

I. Surgical Error

When the doctor tells the patient that they need to undergo a surgery, it brings a slight fear or discomfort for the patient. There is a common misconception that nothing can go wrong if it is a minor surgery. The truth is that regardless of the type of surgery, whether minor or major, a surgical error can occur. "Surgical Error" is an avoidable mistake during any surgery. There are different reasons why a surgical error can occur:

  1. Incompetency of the surgeon;
  2. Not following the surgical protocol;
  3. Too many cases to handle at one time which may drain out the surgeon;
  4. Overconfidence due to experience;
  5. Insufficient planning;
  6. Missing the patient's medical history or comorbidities (other diseases the patient has) that may cause a complication during the surgery.

Every patient is different. No matter how many years of experience a surgeon has and how many successful surgeries they have seen, it is always a trial and error approach for each patient. In any case, if negligence should take place, this can lead to physiological and psychological trauma for the patient. Every year we hear stories on how a small mistake by the surgeon costs loss of a body part or someone's life.

II. Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

A misdiagnosis by a doctor always leads to a delayed diagnosis. Not all delayed diagnosis is considered medical negligence. The reason is, a lot of diseases may show the same signs and symptoms (characteristics), and it may take some time for the doctor to narrow down and find the real cause of a patient's condition. So, what is the thin line that would help someone to determine if, in fact, negligence has happened? The answer is simple, could it have been diagnosed faster if the doctor had done the right tests and noticed the more dominant symptoms, or was it easy for another doctor to find the right diagnosis much faster?

The reasons for a Delayed Diagnosis:

  1. Failure to order the right tests (labs, x rays, scans etc.);
  2. Failure to obtain an opinion from a specialist;
  3. Disregarding the evident symptom that might have helped in the timely diagnosis.

III. Hospital-acquired Infections

Hospitals are supposed to be a place where people go for treatment and get cured of any condition or infection they have. Patients expect hospitals to be a germ-free environment, but that is not true in some cases. "Hospital-acquired infections" may occur during hospital admission or even after the discharge.

"All medicine is made to make you better. If it did the opposite, it would be malpractice." - Chael Sonnen

Hospital-acquired infections are caused due to various reasons like:

  1. Improper sterilization;
  2. Contaminated instruments;
  3. Lack of proper hygiene of the hospital sta_;
  4. Congested hospital rooms.

IV. Anesthesia errors

The common understanding of anesthesia is that it provides relief from pain to the patient. However, the effect of anesthesia on a patient is more than just reducing the pain. Anesthesia medicine has more power over other functionalities of the patient's life, like breathing, body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate. A lot of careful planning is required to decide the type of medicine and the dosage.

The cause of negligence may be as follows:

  1. Wrong calculation of medication;
  2. Not monitoring the patient during and after the surgery;
  3. Being negligent of other conditions that the patient has which may cause a complication;
  4. Failure in explaining to the patient about the do's and don'ts;
  5. Failure in identifying the complications and treating in a timely manner.
  1. Disregarding the evident symptom that might have helped in the timely diagnosis.

To view the full article please click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.