Medical Malpractice: Negligence that Can Cause Death

What is medical malpractice?

Medical News Today defines Medical Malpractice as a negligence by a health care professional or provider in which treatment provided was substandard, and caused harm, injury or death to a patient.

It reports that one in every three hospitalized patients in the USA encounters a hospital error. The most common hospital errors are:

  • Giving the patient the wrong dosage
  • Giving the patient the wrong medication
  • Leaving things inside the patient’s body after surgery
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Operating on the wrong part of the body
  • Persistent back pain after surgery
  • Potentially fatal staph infections
  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores)

What are the medical malpractice statistics?

According to the recent article entitled “Medical Malpractice Basic Information” published by WorldLawDirect, hundreds of people die from medical malpractice.

  • 12,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery
  • 7,000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals
  • 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals
  • 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals
  • 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medication

The research has shown that there are between 15,000 and 19,000 malpractice suits against US doctors annually.

Diederich Healthcare has done an analysis of the medical malpractice payouts in 2011 as recorded by the National Practitioner Data Bank:

How can you recover in medical malpractice lawsuits?

According to Nolo’s article entitled “Damages in Medical Malpractice cases”, if the medical malpractice results in the patient’s death, the patient’s family and heirs can also recover from damages.

There are three main categories of damages available in medical malpractice cases:

  • general
  • special
  • punitive

General Damages can be referred to the ones that cannot be valued by a definite price. They are loss of enjoyment of life, physical and mental pain and suffering. Loss of future learning capacity.

Special Damages cover quantifiable expenses caused by medical malpractice, including medical bills and passed missed work.

Most of the times, the patient may be able to recover punitive damages. Also, the doctor has to know that his behaviour has been harmful for the patient. (He may intentionally leave something inside the patient’s body in order to create a reason for a second surgery.)
The judge or jury decides the exact amount of punitive damages. However, it should not be more than several times the amount of the special and general damages.

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