Medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care to provide treatment that meets the accepted medical standard of care. Medical negligence occurs when a medical professional is in breach of this legal duty of care by providing care that fails to meet accepted standards. This is also known as clinical negligence. Medical negligence can have devastating lifelong consequences and can even be life-threatening.
These are seven common examples of medical negligence.
Misdiagnosis may occur when a doctor diagnoses a patient with one condition, when they are in fact suffering from a completely different condition. This often happens when the symptoms of two conditions overlap. When conflicting symptoms present, the doctor is expected to take additional steps to confirm the diagnosis or to refer the patient to a specialist for a second opinion.
Failure to diagnose is also considered as misdiagnosis. In this case the doctor may miss all signs of the illness or disease, and give the patient a clean bill of health.
An incorrect diagnosis may result in the patient receiving wrong treatment, while a missed diagnosis may result in the patient not receiving any treatment at all. Both can cause serious harm to the patient.
Diagnosing a patient with the flu when they may actually have Lyme disease is an example of misdiagnosis. Other commonly misdiagnosed conditions include coeliac disease, stroke, thyroid conditions, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, and cancer.
Delayed diagnosis is slightly different from misdiagnosis. Delayed diagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to diagnose a condition on time, allowing the condition to progress and become more severe. In this case, the doctor eventually makes the correct diagnosis, but after considerable delay. Many conditions become more difficultt to treat and may even be untreatable in the advanced stage.
Birth Related Injuries
Birth related injuries or childbirth injuries apply to any injury that a new-born or the mother suffers at any time before, during, or after the delivery. Prenatal and postnatal care is just as important as care during the childbirth process. Although statistics show the UK is one of the safest countries in which to have a baby, negligence at any of these stages can have a life-long impact on the infant and the mother.
Childbirth injuries due to medical negligence may be caused by:
- Improper use of delivery assistance tools such as forceps or vacuum.
- Failure to administer labour-inducing medication resulting in prolonged or delayed labour.
- Failure to initiate a C-Section in time.
- Surgical errors during a Caesarean section.
- Oxygen deprivation to the baby.
- Careless handling during the labour resulting in Brachial plexus injuries, shoulder dystocia, or other nerve damage.
- Failure to diagnose or treat haemorrhaging in the mother during pregnancy or labour.
- Failure to provide necessary after-delivery care to the mother leading to infection or internal bleeding.
- Improper care of the infant immediately after birth, resulting in infection or injury.
Childbirth injuries may include but are not limited to Erb’s palsy, Celebral palsy, Klumpke’s palsy, Shoulder dystocia or Brachial plexus injuries. These injuries can cause a baby to suffer a lifetime of pain and disability, while also placing a heavy emotional and financial burden on the parents.
Surgical errors can arise several different ways, from using the wrong instruments or inadequate sterilisation to employing the wrong techniques or poor surgical skills. It also includes improper pre-op and post-op care, both of which can impact the outcome of the surgery.
Surgical errors may include:
- Failure to sterilise surgical instruments.
- Performing an incorrect procedure.
- Operating on the wrong body part or the wrong patient.
- Failure to monitor vital signs adequately during the procedure.
- Failure to identify and stop internal bleeding during or after the procedure.
- Damaging nerves, tissues or organs while performing the surgery.
- Leaving surgical instruments inside the patient.
- Anaesthesia errors.
- Failure to prevent infection.
- Inadequate care before or after the procedure.
Surgical errors are rarely minor. In most cases these errors have serious consequences for the patient.
Administering anaesthesia requires as much precision as the surgical procedure itself. An error involving anaesthesia administration can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Anaesthesia errors are typically caused by:
- Using faulty or unsterilised equipment.
- Failure to take the patient’s medical history into account when calculating dosage.
- Administering the wrong anaesthesia dosage to the patient.
Prescription errors may happen either because of wrongful prescription at the hospital or clinic, or it may happen because of wrongful delivery at the pharmacy.
Prescription errors include:
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Prescribing the wrong medication dosage
- Failure to take the patient’s history with regards to existing conditions and allergies before prescribing medication
- Prescribing medication that conflicts with medications the patient is currently taking for some other condition
- Failure to explain the side effects or risks of taking the prescribed drug, which would allow the patient to make a more informed decision
- Filling the prescription wrongly at the pharmacy
Taking the wrong medication or the wrong dose can cause serious harm to the patient.
Hospitals are a hotbed of viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens brought in by ill and injured patients as well the many visitors moving around the premises. Maintaining impeccable sanitation at all times is the only way to prevent any type of hospital infection. Negligence in this area can cause MRSA, staph infections, pneumonia and other infections in the central nervous system, blood stream, cardiovascular system, soft tissue, respiratory system or urinary tract.
Hospital infections pose an especially high risk to patients as their immunity is more likely to already be low. This may pose additional challenges to their current treatment regime and prolong their recovery time.
If you think your health may have been compromised because of medical negligence, you must seek a second opinion from another, independent medical professional at the earliest. The earlier you receive corrective treatment, the better the outcome.