What Should I Do if I Suspect My Doctor is Being Negligent?

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Doctor and negligence

According to the patient advocacy website My Medical Score, more than 12 million people in the United States are misdiagnosed every year. And medical errors lead to an estimated 250,000 deaths annually. That is alarming news considering that as patients, we put our utmost faith and trust our nurses, doctors, surgeons, and other health care providers to make the best decisions for our care.

But as the numbers show, that is not always the case. Although the hope is a medical mistake is minor and will not cause any lasting complications, surgical errors, wrong prescriptions, and wrong diagnoses can in fact be fatal. Victims of medical malpractice often take legal action against negligent clinicians to recover compensation for their losses and to deter them from harming anyone else.

Data on Medical Mistake Incidents in the United States

To fully grasp the scope of this problem, consider some recent statistics on medical errors in the United States:

  • A 2016 Johns Hopkins study found that approximately 250,000 people die every year in this country of a medical mistake, making it the third leading cause of death behind cancer and heart disease.
  • The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that one in every seven patients on Medicare in a hospital suffers from a medical error.
  • Every year in this country, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives over 100,000 reports related to medication errors in pharmacies, hospitals, and patient homes.
  • The World Health Organization studied patient outcomes worldwide and found that in high-income countries such as the United States, nearly half of adverse events happening in hospitals were entirely preventable.

Common Types of Medical Mistakes

It is understood that doctors and other health care providers must undergo extensive training and complete advanced education to practice medicine. Their commitment to serving patients is truly impressive, as we have all witnessed during the coronavirus pandemic.

But with all that training and expertise, why is doctor negligence still a persistent problem? There are many types of medical mistakes that occur in doctors’ offices, hospitals, urgent care centers, and other facilities across the United States.  Here are some of the most common:

Communication problems. You probably know a doctor with a good bedside manner. They take the time to learn about your symptoms, listen to your concerns, and explain your condition and treatment options with patience and compassion. Doctors who do not read your medical records, neglect to speak with other doctors on your care team, or do not listen to their patients simply do not have all the information they need to make safe and appropriate medical decisions.

Wrong diagnosis. Diagnosis errors include failure to diagnose, wrong diagnosis, or delayed diagnosis. Without a timely and accurate diagnosis, a doctor may not order necessary diagnostic tests or address problematic findings. They may overlook vital information about the patient’s condition and seriously compromise their care and their health.

Mistakes with laboratory tests. In some cases, doctors order the wrong tests based on a patient’s symptoms. Some doctors also misread or misinterpret laboratory results. Without those important clues, the doctor cannot properly diagnose the patient, address any abnormal results, or determine if a medication is safe to prescribe based on the patient’s overall health.

Surgical errors. Mistakes during surgery and other treatments are always a possibility, even during the most routine procedure. They can involve mistakes during surgery that could have been avoided with proper training and execution. Puncturing an organ or operating on the wrong body part are examples of serious surgical mistakes. In rare cases, surgery is performed when it is not medically necessary.

It should be noted that all procedures come with certain risks, and those risks should always be disclosed to the patient prior to surgery. If a common side effect or result occurs and is a known risk, it is probably not considered medical malpractice.

A Closer Look at Medication Errors

Medication errors involve more than just prescription drugs. They also involve certain vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications recommended by your doctor. Because the risk of a medication error is so high, it makes sense to look a bit deeper at this form of doctor negligence.

Here are the different ways that medication mistakes occur:

  • Prescribing the wrong medication altogether
  • Prescribing the wrong dose or preparation of a medication
  • Failure to prescribe, dispense, or administer medication
  • Failure to consider the patient’s health conditions when prescribing medication
  • Failure to check for dangerous drug interactions

What are My Rights as a Patient?

As a patient, you are depending on your doctor to provide high-quality care to diagnose, treat, and manage your health conditions. But you have certain rights as well.

As a patient, you have the right to provide informed consent to be treated and to have a dialogue with your doctor about your health care options. You are also permitted full access to all your medical records at any time.

If you have difficulty understanding your condition or your treatment options, you can request a translator for a language barrier or a patient advocate to assist you. Finally, every patient has the right to be treated with respect, regardless of age, race, religion, or other personal attributes. When you know and exercise these basic patient rights, you can be a more engaged participant in your own health and wellness.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Maryland?

Sometimes we just do not “click” with our doctor. Maybe we do not like their bedside manner, or we find their practice disorganized. That does not necessarily constitute negligence in a legal context. It is important to know the difference, especially if you have suspicions about your own physician’s level of care.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital, or other type of health care professional injures a patient by mistakes in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or overall health management.

Four factors must exist to meet the legal threshold of medical malpractice in Maryland:

A doctor-patient relationship exists. Before going any further with a medical malpractice claim, the patient must prove they hired the doctor and agreed to be treated by them. It sounds obvious, but there have been cases in which a consulting physician has been sued by someone they never actually treated in person.

There is a standard of care violation. Doctors and other health care providers are expected to uphold a certain standard of care. In other words, they must provide the same high-quality patient care that other professionals with the same credentials and experience would provide under similar circumstances. Your doctor may be negligent if their care falls short of this standard.

Negligence leads to a patient injury. A violation of the accepted standard of care is not enough to constitute negligence. That violation must involve some sort of injury. The patient must prove their injury, or some other unfavorable outcome, would not have occurred without their doctor’s negligence. Even if your doctor made a medical mistake, if you were not harmed by that mistake, you do not have grounds for a malpractice claim.

The patient’s injury resulted in substantial damages. The final element of a malpractice claim involves the damages incurred by a doctor’s negligence. The patient must show there is a direct connection between their doctor’s negligence and losses they have incurred. In terms of a malpractice case, damages can include everything from pain and disability to hardship, mental trauma, loss of income, and past and future medical bills.

First Steps after a Doctor’s Error

If you have been injured because of a medical mistake your doctor made, and that injury has cost you physically, emotionally, and financially, it is time to hire a lawyer.

Until it happens to you, it is hard to fathom all the ways a serious medical mistake can impact a person’s quality of life. They may suffer from chronic pain that prevents them from working to provide for their family.

Physical injuries also take a toll on a person’s mental health. Many people living with pain and disability are at risk for anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. For these reasons, it is important to pursue justice after a preventable case of doctor negligence.

The first step is a consultation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in your area. During that first meeting, the lawyer learns about your situation, asks questions, looks at any medical records you have provided, and discusses your options. If they feel negligence occurred under the law, they may recommend a medical malpractice lawsuit.

To help ensure the best possible outcome for your case, make copies of every medical document related to your care and meet with a lawyer as soon as possible. Most states have limits on how long you have to file a claim after an injury.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman and Hamilton Advocate for Clients Injured by a Doctor’s Mistake

Medical mistakes are more common than you might realize. And a doctor’s negligence can change a person’s life forever. If you or a loved one has been impacted by a preventable treatment error, the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman and Hamilton can help. We will hold hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals accountable when their actions cause patients harm. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.