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3 common causes of medical malpractice

Medical malpractice is alarmingly common in doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, and other care facilities across America. According to some estimates, between 250,000 and 440,000 patients lose their lives each year as a result of medical negligence. This number is shockingly high, and it’s particularly tragic when you consider that thousands upon thousands of these incidents are preventable. After all, they call it medical “negligence” for a reason; had the provider met the standard of care, the event likely wouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

Countless other patients suffer serious but non-fatal injuries, medical complications, and needless suffering due to the error of a physician, nurse, pharmacist, surgeon or another provider. These misdiagnoses, missed diagnoses, failures to treat, prescription errors, and other negligence could easily lead to additional surgeries, lengthened hospital stays, painful and invasive medical testing, tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses, and more.

Many factors contribute to medical malpractice, including these three common causes:

1. Inadequately assessing patients

Errors in clinical assessment are arguably the most common cause of medical malpractice. If doctors do not perform a comprehensive patient assessment by properly taking the patient’s medical history, performing a complete examination and recording of signs and symptoms, as well as ordering appropriate tests and imaging, misdiagnosis is highly possible. This is particularly common in emergency room situations and in cases where a single key symptom could be indicative of more than one condition. For example, a persistent headache could be a sign that the patient is suffering from a migraine, or it could point to a brain tumor. Pain in the chest and shoulder area could be the result of angina, or the patient might be having a heart attack.

Likewise, an inadequate patient assessment may lead to the wrong treatment plan. A doctor may take a brief glance at a lung X-ray and diagnose a bout of pneumonia in a patient who is actually suffering from lung cancer. Treating the less-serious condition will only lead to a delay in providing care that might result in death if the misdiagnosis isn’t made in a timely manner.

  1. Demanding schedules

Overworked doctors on booked schedules are unlikely to be able to devote sufficient time to every patient that comes in. Physicians, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants often see patients back-to-back, with little or no time between too short visits. Unfortunately, it is the  patient who pay the price for a practice’s attempt to maximize the number of visits each day as notes aren’t properly or fully charted, symptoms are missed, and patients are left with inadequate care plans.

Doctors and nurses are also subject to burnout, particularly if they work in high-risk specialties or in trauma situations on a daily basis. Job fatigue can lead to overall bodily exhaustion, brain fog, shortened attention span, and the inability to quickly respond to changing conditions. All of these could lead to medical mistakes.

  1. Lack of communication

Health care professionals should keep meticulous and comprehensive records for physicians and others to review frequently while a patient is receiving care. If doctors on the treatment team do not communicate with one another, fail to talk to other team members (like the nurses or pharmacists who will actually be administering the medications and treatments), or do not communicate effectively with the patient, there is a greater risk of medical malpractice. It’s often said that a patient is his or her own best advocate; a patient cannot speak up for him or herself if unaware of the diagnosis and treatment protocol.

Furthermore, all members of a patient’s care team need to be on the same proverbial page. If Doctor A believes that Doctor B (or vice versa) is handling a serious condition, the patient may simply fall through the cracks and not get the care he or she needs and deserves.

Medical malpractice can leave you or someone you love with serious, life-altering injuries. Lives can even be lost in the most egregious cases. Due to the high cost of treatment associated with attempting to undo the damage caused by medical negligence, you may want to pursue financial compensation – and justice – through the state’s civil court system. No law firm in the Capital District is better equipped to handle your case than Anderson, Moschetti and Taffany. We have decades of experience handling difficult cases just like these, and have recovered record-setting verdicts and settlements on behalf of seriously injured clients and those who have tragically lost a beloved family member.

Call our Albany-area law firm at (518) 328-4486 or contact us online for a free consultation to discuss your case. We have offices at 26 Century Hill Drive in Latham, just north of Albany, as well as at 6 Butler Place in Saratoga Springs.

Whenever you are considering consulting an attorney about pursuing a medical negligence claim, keep in mind that New York has statutes of limitation that limit how long you have to bring a claim, so contact us sooner rather than later to avoid jeopardizing your rights.