Studies have concluded that thousands of deaths occur each year in Pennsylvania hospitals due to preventable medical errors. A much higher number of nonfatal injuries in Pennsylvania are caused by medical malpractice every year.
Any doctor can make a mistake, but a small percentage of careless or unskilled doctors account for a disproportionate share of medical malpractice claims. Whether a medical error is committed by a doctor who is generally conscientious or by one who is consistently careless, the results are the same for the malpractice victim.
Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers help victims of medical malpractice receive compensation for their injuries. Whether a medical error is made in a hospital, an urgent care facility, or a clinic, healthcare providers who injure patients by making avoidable mistakes should be held accountable.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
Some injuries that result from medical treatment are unavoidable, but many injuries can be prevented by following the standards of treatment that guide careful doctors. The failure to follow those standards constitutes medical malpractice.
Examples of medical malpractice in Philadelphia include:
- Diagnostic errors
Doctors commit malpractice when they fail to diagnose cancer or other serious diseases, or when they misdiagnose a disease, because they lack the knowledge or training that a doctor practicing in their field of medicine should have. A failure to order tests that prudent doctors would order can also be a negligent cause of harm to patients who experience a delayed diagnosis. Patients may lose years of their life if a condition progresses when it could have been treated effectively if diagnosed at an earlier stage.
- Childbirth errors
Common examples of medical negligence during delivery include the improper use of forceps or using excessive force during delivery. Babies can suffer from debilitating conditions, including shoulder dystocia, as the result of improper delivery techniques. Babies can suffer brain damage from oxygen deprivation when a doctor waits too long to perform a Caesarian section. Mothers can also suffer harm due to mistakes made during prenatal care.
- Surgical errors
Examples of surgical errors include operating on the wrong part of the body, leaving sponges in the body during surgery, or carelessly cutting an organ or artery during surgery.
- Treatment errors
Doctors should maintain state-of-the-art knowledge of treatment protocols for the diseases they encounter. When a disease or condition is not within their specialty, they should refer the patient to a more knowledgeable physician. While it is difficult to keep abreast of changing treatment protocols in a fast-evolving world of medicine, doctors owe a duty to their patients to remain educated in their field so they can meet current standards of care.
Improper treatment techniques can also injure patients. Spinal injection injuries and burns from laser surgery are examples of patient harms that result from improper techniques.
- Anesthesia errors
Most anesthesia errors result from administering an incorrect dose of an anesthetic. Errors can also result from administering an anesthetic to which a patient has a known allergy.
- Medication errors
Doctors and hospital staff can both be responsible for medication errors. Doctors commit errors when they prescribe the wrong medication or a medication to which a patient has an allergy. Hospital staff too often dispense the wrong medication or an incorrect dose of medication when they misread a doctor’s orders or fail to make an accurate record of medications that they administer.
- Failing to prevent hospital-acquired infections
A shocking number of deaths among hospital patients are caused by preventable infections. Hospitals are responsible for infections caused by failing to enforce protocols for hand washing and by failing to maintain ventilation systems that spread bacteria throughout a hospital.
- Informed consent errors
Every patient has the right to know about the risks of surgery or other treatment methods that expose them to harm. Patients may decide not to undergo a surgical procedure, or to take a dangerous drug, if they are made aware of the risks. For that reason, doctors have an obligation to give them the information they need to make an informed choice. When doctors fail to do so and the patient suffers a harm that should have been disclosed to the patient as a potential outcome, doctors can be held accountable for their malpractice.
Proving Medical Malpractice in Philadelphia
Doctors and their insurance companies have argued for years that doctors are too often sued for innocent mistakes. In fact, studies show that most medical malpractice victims never bring an insurance claim. Malpractice victims often fail to realize that a doctor has committed malpractice, either because doctors do not disclose their negligent acts or because hospital records are altered to conceal the truth.
The medical and insurance lobbies have become a powerful force in Pennsylvania. They have persuaded the legislature to enact formidable barriers to a successful medical malpractice lawsuit. Those laws favor negligent doctors at the expense of injured patients. A malpractice victim’s best hope of obtaining compensation is to retain an experienced Philadelphia malpractice attorney as soon as the victim suspects that the doctor committed malpractice.
Compensation for Medical Malpractice
Substantial compensation is often needed to provide justice to Philadelphia patients injured by medical negligence. A patient whose life has been shortened by the misdiagnosis of a medical condition will be entitled to seek the wages the patient would have earned if the patient’s lifespan had not been shortened, as well as compensation for the suffering and anxiety that accompanies the knowledge that life will end prematurely.
When malpractice results in additional hospitalization or the need for treatment, compensation covers those medical bills. It also takes account of any pain caused by the physician’s negligence. No payment can relieve pain, but compensation can offset pain by improving the quality of a patient’s life in other ways.
When malpractice results in the death of a patient, a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer can help surviving family members seek wrongful death compensation.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Although the time for bringing a medical malpractice case in court can be longer under some circumstances, Pennsylvania generally requires medical malpractice lawsuits to be filed within two years of the time an injury caused by malpractice was, or should have been, discovered. Since that date is often disputed, it is imperative to obtain legal advice from a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer immediately. Delay can jeopardize a malpractice victim’s opportunity to obtain compensation for injuries caused by medical negligence.