As the medical field has become more formalized, patient expectations have risen as well. All of us expect to be well taken care of when we set foot inside of a doctor’s office, hospital, or other medical facility. It’s difficult to imagine a trustworthy medical expert making a mistake—let alone one that could cost us our wellbeing. Unfortunately, medical errors can and do happen way too often. Acts of medical negligence and malpractice often prove devastating for their victims. Some patients suffer without treatment or experience dangerous misprescribed medications and procedures. Others face direct abuse and neglect from the care providers that they should be able to trust most. Recent medical malpractice statistics illustrate how ubiquitous the problem has proven:
- A minimum of 65,000 to 200,000 deaths occur due to medical malpractice each year
- 25,000 to 120,000 of the aforementioned deaths are the result of negligence
- Only 2.9 percent of medical malpractice victims file claims
- Almost five percent of physicians are responsible for half of the medical malpractice claims throughout the country
What Qualifies as a Medical Error?The Code of Virginia explicitly defines the parameters that constitute a medical malpractice case . Section 8.01-581.1 of the Virginia State Code informs readers that medical malpractice is “any [action] for personal injuries... based on health care or professional services rendered, or which should have been rendered, by a healthcare provider, to a patient.” This offers clear insight into the types of behaviors that could qualify as medical malpractice upon observation through a legal lens. In essence, medical errors are generally:
- Specific actions or inactions...
- ...provided by some health care provider (a nurse, a doctor, a nursing home management company, a hospital)...
- ...that do not meet accepted standards for medical care...
- ...and lead to injury or illness in a patient.
Examples of Medical ErrorsThe legal system considers many scenarios—most of them all too common—medical malpractice or error. If you visited a healthcare professional and feel that malpractice may have occurred, there’s an unfortunate likelihood that your experience may qualify. Some of the best known and understood forms of medical errors and malpractice include:
Notable Forms of Medical Malpractice
The Criticality of InactionRecall that the definition of medical errors and malpractice encompasses inaction. Many medical error victims fail to recognize that they may have a case in court. This is because they do not understand that Virginia law recognizes hor dangerous failure to act can be. Inaction may constitute medical malpractice. If, for example, you are diagnosed with some injury or illness that requires treatment, your doctor should prescribe the correct treatment to promote healing. The decision to accept the prescription is yours. If, however, your care provider neglects to prescribe appropriate treatment, it could qualify as a medical error. Some physicians fail to diagnose conditions altogether. Rather than offering inadequate treatment or care, these doctors simply ignore or overlook critical components of patient health. Many diseases, especially those like cancer and heart disease, can prove fatal without proper diagnosis.
Informed Consent Is Not an OptionIf a doctor fails to inform a patient of the risks that the patient faces due to a treatment, medication, or procedure, that patient cannot give informed consent. Physicians are held responsible for disclosing risks and other critical information before administering care. This requirement, known as the duty of informed consent, mandates that doctors must:
- Inform patients concerning which condition is being treated
- Explain the nature of any proposed treatments
- Offer alternative forms of treatment
- Detail the expected results of any treatment
- Present and emphasize recognized serious potential risks or complications
- Many patients do not recognize that they were robbed of the opportunity to provide informed consent in a medical setting. While doctors receive thorough training to ensure that they deliver information like this, patients cannot be expected to know that they need these details. Physicians who fail to provide critical knowledge like this to patients could be held liable for medical malpractice.