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The Most Common Medical Malpractice Areas (& How You Can Protect Yourself)

No one is more appreciative of Oregon’s highly qualified medical practitioners than the attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield. In fact, most Oregonians can thank a doctor or other medical professional for providing essential medical services at one time or another. However, doctors and other medical providers can make mistakes, just like any other professional. Unfortunately, the results of medical malpractice can be severe, sometimes even fatal. In order to protect all of society and promote accountability, we believe it’s imperative to hold all negligent professionals responsible for their actions.

Is medical malpractice something I really need to worry about?

For years, we have heard members of the medical community downplay the seriousness of medical malpractice, contending that malpractice insurance costs too much and that lawmakers should consider some type of tort reform.

However, research on the frequency of medical malpractice paints a different picture. For example, in 2016, two doctors from Johns Hopkins published a sobering article in the British Medical Journal. Based upon their research team’s analysis of eight years’ worth of data, they concluded that if the United States classified medical error as a disease, it would constitute the third leading cause of death in America, behind only cancer and heart disease. The experts estimated that more than a whopping 250,000 deaths result each year from medical error.

Research on medical malpractice litigation also reflects a persistent problem. The American Medical Association (AMA) reported in 2019 that at least one in three physicians are sued for medical liability at some point in their careers. While of course not all of these physicians are ultimately found liable, the figure suggests a few important takeaways.

One implication is that adverse medical outcomes are common, even if they do not always amount to malpractice. Another, related takeaway is that both patients and doctors can benefit from a clearer understanding of what constitutes medical malpractice. Only with this understanding can medical professionals do their part to prevent medical malpractice.

What are some common areas of malpractice?

Here, we’ll discuss a few common medical malpractice issues, and some common-sense precautions. However, keep in mind that we are not doctors and can’t give medical advice. It’s always important to thoroughly educate yourself concerning all of your medical treatment.

Diagnostic Issues

Many instances of malpractice occur as a result of both misdiagnosis (making the wrong diagnosis) and failure to diagnose (not making a diagnosis at all). While such errors can result from many causes, one simple source can be miscommunication between patient and doctor.

Thus, help protect yourself by communicating your issues clearly, carefully, and thoroughly. Make sure your doctor understands your communications. Additionally, if you believe your doctor hasn’t adequately responded to your concerns, or even if you just want the peace of mind of confirming your doctor’s diagnosis, obtain a second opinion.

Surgical Errors

According to a 2013 article published by the American Medical Association in the American Medical News, surgical errors occur across the United States approximately 80 times every week.

To prevent medical malpractice in the form of surgical errors, always perform research before choosing a surgeon. Perform a background check to determine if the doctor has had malpractice claims made against him or her in the past. Make sure the doctor is experienced in the procedure you must undergo.

Communication is also key. Communicate carefully to make sure everyone understands what is to be done during the surgery. Believe it or not, some people even advise that you mark the surgical area in advance because surgeons have operated in the wrong place on so many occasions.

Drug Errors

Harm can  occur from taking medicine, whether it be the incorrect medication or medication in the wrong dosage. Make sure you provide your doctor with a complete list of all of your medications and allergies. Also confirm with the doctor the name of the medicine being prescribed, and check to see that the pharmacist gave you the correct medication, in the correct dosage size. If you’re in the hospital, know what you are supposed to be taking, and double-check what your nurse gives you.

How to prevent medical malpractice: Tips for patients

Ultimately, it is your physician’s responsibility to prevent medical malpractice by maintaining the appropriate standard of care when treating you for an injury or medical condition. However, you may be able to decrease the likelihood of malpractice occurring by taking certain actions. Below is a recap of the best ways to prevent medical malpractice:

  • Communicate: Communicate clearly and listen carefully. Communication breakdowns are a common cause of diagnostic errors, surgical errors, and medication errors. Keep written records of advice you receive from your physicians and nurses if possible, especially about medications or details about any surgical procedures you will undergo.
  • Research: Research your physician’s background and experience, especially when undergoing surgery. Make sure the surgeon has experience in the procedure you’re having.
  • Get a second opinion: Don’t be afraid to cross check your doctor’s diagnosis, advice, or prescriptions with the advice of another physician. When it comes to evaluating medical advice, the only qualified opinion is that of another medical professional.

Note: Again, we are not physicians and these tips should not be considered medical advice. If in doubt about the medical care you are receiving, get a second opinion from another physician if possible.

What if malpractice has already occurred?

If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, you have options for recovering from the resulting medical and financial damages. It may ultimately be necessary to file a medical malpractice claim.

Don’t hesitate to call us with your questions, or for a free consultation. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we may not be medical experts, but we are experts in medical malpractice. Medical malpractice cases are complicated, take a great deal of investigation, and carry statutes of limitations that put time limits on filing a claim. But with an experienced attorney, you’ll be better prepared. Contact an attorney today.