Medical malpractice is a term that strikes fear into the hearts of patients, and for good reason. It represents a breach of trust between patients and healthcare providers, resulting in harm or injury due to negligence or errors in medical treatment.
I have lost count of the times this has happened to my mom, who went through several doctors and tests before she was diagnosed with a chronic health issue. The sad thing is, that one is afraid to question healthcare providers for fear of retribution in some way that might cause health setbacks. However, your health and wellbeing matter and it is important to hold your healthcare provider accountable for their actions.
This guide will take you through the essentials of medical malpractice, how to prevent it, and what steps to take if you believe you’ve been a victim.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when there’s a failure to provide a standard of care from either an individual or a center that meets accepted medical practices, leading to harm or injury to the patient. It’s crucial to understand that not all adverse medical outcomes are the result of malpractice. Many medical procedures carry inherent risks, and complications can occur even with the best care.
5 Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
It can happen in many ways. Here are some common examples.
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: when a healthcare provider fails to correctly diagnose a condition or delays diagnosis, it can lead to delayed treatment and harm to the patient.
Surgical Errors: surgical errors can include wrong-site surgery, leaving foreign objects in the body, or anesthesia errors that result in patient harm.
Medication Errors: administering the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, or failing to consider a patient’s allergies or medication interactions can lead to severe consequences.
Birth Injuries: injuries to the mother or newborn during childbirth due to negligence, such as improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors, can be considered medical malpractice.
Failure to Obtain Informed Consent: patients should make informed decisions, and it’s an inherent right. If a healthcare provider fails to obtain proper informed consent, it can result in legal consequences.
How can you prevent medical malpractice?
While you may not have control over the actions of your healthcare providers, below are some steps to reduce the chance of medical malpractice:
Choose Healthcare Providers Wisely: research your healthcare providers and seek recommendations from trusted sources. Look for professionals with a track record of providing quality care.
Ask Questions: always ask questions about your diagnosis, treatment options, and potential risks. Effective communication is key to preventing errors.
Obtain a Second Opinion: if you’re unsure about a diagnosis (or even a treatment plan), seek an opinion from another qualified healthcare provider.
Understand Informed Consent: ensure that you fully understand any risks of any medical procedure or treatment before giving your consent and ensure you understand why it’s being done.
Keep Detailed Medical Records: maintain organized records of your medical history, including diagnoses, treatments, medications, and test results.
Image credit: Image by Freepik
What to Do If You Suspect Medical Malpractice
If you believe you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, taking the following steps is crucial:
Seek Immediate Medical Attention: if you’re experiencing complications or harm due to suspected malpractice, seek medical attention to address your health needs.
Document Everything: keep records of your medical records, correspondence with healthcare providers, and any relevant details about your treatment.
Consult an Attorney: reach out to a qualified medical malpractice attorney who can evaluate your case and guide you through the legal process.
File a Complaint: depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to file a complaint with a medical board or licensing agency to investigate the healthcare provider’s actions.
Consider Mediation or Legal Action: with the guidance of your attorney, you can decide whether mediation or legal action is the best course of action to seek compensation for damages.
Medical malpractice is a serious issue that can have profound consequences for patients and their families. By understanding the basics of medical malpractice, taking preventive measures, and knowing what to do if you suspect malpractice, you can protect your rights and ensure that healthcare providers are held accountable for their actions. Your health and well-being are paramount, and advocating for them is your right as a patient.
Featured image credit: Image by DCStudio on Freepik