A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of medical care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins medicine said that medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Hard to imagine, we know. Highlighted by the report was a failure to accurately track vital statistics, which hindered research on the subject and more accurate reporting. Researchers called for more detailed coding on death certificates. The hope is to more accurately capture if a medical error is the cause.
This lack of detailed accounting on both injuries and fatalities as a result of medical error and medical mistakes, has led to this very real problem not getting the focus it deserves. Patient safety needs to be a top priority of our healthcare system and legislatures. No one expects to seek medical attention and experience further harm as a result. A sad fact is that it can and does happen. Read on to learn about many types of medical errors that can occur.
Common medical errors
Misdiagnosis – An error in diagnosis or delayed diagnosis is the most common type of medical error. Often, a speedy and accurate diagnosis is
Physicians performing surgery
essential in starting a proper course of treatment. A wrong diagnosis can cause a dangerous and sometimes fatal delay in treatment.
Surgical errors – We’ve all heard horror stories of wrong site surgeries, or even of surgeons operating on the wrong patient. There are many surgical errors that are a result of medical negligence. An example of this is leaving objects, such as surgical sponges or even medical instruments inside a patient’s body after surgery. Puncturing an organ or causing an infection due to a surgical error are other problems that can lead to serious injury, as is failing to properly monitor vital signs. Surgical errors can lead to a devastating outcome for a patient.
Anesthesia errors – One of the most serious medical malpractice injuries can come from a negligent anesthesia error. This can sometimes result in brain damage, coma or death before action can be taken. More specifically, anesthesia errors can result in stroke, heart attack, asphyxia, brain injury, birth defects and many more injuries. Giving the wrong dosage of anesthesia, failing to monitor the patient properly, failing to properly administer oxygen or failing to recognize complications are just a few of the anesthesia errors that occur.
Medication errors – Medication and other prescription errors can occur at many different stages in the medication prescribing and dispensing process. For instance, an error could be made in ordering or prescribing or in entering the information into a computer. Medication mistakes can also happen when the drug is dispensed or administered or in monitoring the patient. According to the FDA, they receive more than 100,000 reports in the U.S. each year associated with a suspected medication error. Medication errors could result in a variety of injuries from birth defects to adverse reaction, life threatening conditions, disability and even fatality.
Errors due to lack of communication – Medical errors and injury may result from the lack of proper communication and coordination between healthcare providers. It can also be a result of lack of communication between a doctor and a patient. Good communication is essential between all parties involved in medical treatment. This is a very preventable medical error that can lead to serious harm.
Failure to properly monitor a patient – Failure to monitor could lead to missed medical warning signs. This may result in valuable time lost in properly treating a patient. It may even result in irreversible injury. Monitoring is essential in medical care.
Lab errors – Failure to properly read test results can lead to a wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment. This can lead to a dangerous delay in properly treating a medical condition. Errors in testing, reading tests and in communicating results can all cause harm.
Medical equipment malfunction – Medical equipment that is not kept in good working order can cause serious harm or possibly death. An example of this might include a case of a malfunctioning defibrillator.
Blood transfusions errors – Blood transfusions are high-risk procedures. Errors can occur during the transfusion process. They can occur when identifying a patient, in blood typing, in failing to test for contamination in blood or in failing to recognize a blood transfusion reaction.
Birth injuries as a result of medical errors – Every year, tens of thousands of birth injuries occur in the U.S. Birth injuries can include traumatic brain injury or other brain injuries and oxygen deprivation among other errors. A failure to anticipate complications or to diagnose an ailment could be life threatening. Birth injuries that can be caused by medical errors include Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE. Cerebral Palsy, and Erb’s Palsy/Shoulder Dystocia are other examples of birth injuries. Medical errors resulting in birth injuries can include a failure to detect fetal distress or a delayed cesarean section. They can also include a delay in diagnosis or the improper use of birthing tools among other errors. Birth errors can have a lifelong impact on children and families.
How can patients better protect themselves from certain medical errors?
The sad truth is that many medical errors are often preventable. Medical mistakes are frequently the result of carelessness on the part of a doctor or another medical professional or healthcare provider. Here are five ways you can protect yourself.
Be assertive and ask questions – Don’t be afraid to ask. You will want to know the risks and disadvantages of various procedures, side effects of medication and other treatments, etc..
Bring along an advocate – It sometimes gets confusing, and having a family member or friend with you at an appointment can help.
Watch for signs of medical staff fatigue in an understaffed health care facility.
Make sure all medical providers know all of the medication you are taking. Alert them to medication allergies and reactions as well.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
When errors are made in the medical profession, they can result in serious and sometimes fatal consequences. For medical malpractice to be considered in a case, the following must have occurred: harm was suffered by a patient as the result of a medical professional failing to provide a standard of care that other medical professionals would have provided under the same circumstances. If you believe you have been injured by a medical error, it’s important to act quickly to protect your legal rights. Speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can evaluate the circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable medical injury lawyer can tell you if you have a medical malpractice case.
Cerebral palsy is a lifelong and serious neurological disorder that is often caused by a lack of enough oxygen reaching an infant’s brain during labor or delivery. Head trauma before, during or shortly after birth can be a cause. While not all cases of cerebral palsy are caused by medical error, some certainly are. Medical errors or medical malpractice during labor or delivery can sometimes result in hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen to the brain, or asphyxia, which is insufficient oxygen to the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that 85 to 90 percent of cerebral palsy cases are congenital, or occur before or during the birth.
Cerebral palsy impairs muscle coordination and body movement. Harmful side effects of cerebral palsy can include breathing problems, trouble swallowing, speech impediment, as well as vision and hearing problems. Other side effects include cognitive impairments, seizure disorder, learning disabilities, and inability to control the bladder or bowels and more. 1 in 323 babies in the U.S. is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This is according to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation.
Types of cerebral palsy
Spastic Cerebral Palsy – The most common form of CP, it accounts for for 70-80% of cases. Symptoms include stiff and tight muscles. Those suffering from spastic cerebral palsy may have difficulty moving from one position to another. They may have trouble controlling muscles that are needed to perform tasks such as holding an object or speaking. Spasticity is due to damage to the motor cortex of the brain before, during or after birth.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – This form of CP is characterized by involuntary movements, such as twisting and repetitive movements, slow movements or unpredictable movements. It results from damage to the basal ganglia of the brain.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – Ataxic is characterized by shaky movements that may appear disorganized or jerky, as well as a difficulty in maintaining balance. Ataxia causes an interruption of muscle control in the arms and legs, causing a lack of balance and coordination. It has an impact on the movements required for day-to-day activities. Ataxia results from damage to the cerebellum.
Medical errors that may result in cerebral palsy
Failing to properly monitor the mother or infant before, during or after childbirth.
Failure to identify fetal distress by not properly monitoring the fetal heart rate during labor and delivery.
The medical mistake of failing to identify and properly treat infections in the mother during pregnancy.
Delayed diagnosis and treatment of maternal medical conditions or infections.
Failing to identify an umbilical cord prolapse, a birth complication that occurs prior to delivery. Prolapse is when the umbilical cord drops through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby. It sometimes getting trapped against the baby’s body.
Medical errors regarding cesarean sections. This can include delaying a cesarean section needed due to an emergency or failing to perform a cesarean section in a high-risk pregnancy. Failing to perform a C-section when the baby is too large to deliver vaginally may also cause an injury. Medical mistakes relating to C-sections can lead to serious birth injuries.
Medical negligence in using medical instruments or equipment. This can include the improper use of forceps or vacuum during delivery.
Medication errors or the uses of medication that was inappropriate or dangerous for the mother or baby.
Inadequate monitoring of the mother and baby when anesthesia is used.
Medical diagnostic errors, such as incorrect reading of test results.
Providing a child with cerebral palsy with the appropriate care can take a toll on a family, both financially and emotionally. Cerebral palsy often requires a lifetime of care. Costly rehab, therapy and home care, as well as other medical expenses can become burdensome to an already struggling family. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or is exhibiting symptoms of cerebral palsy, and you suspect medical malpractice, contact an experienced birth injury attorney today for help.
The burden of proof in birth injury cases
It’s hard to imagine that with just a single medical error, an infant’s life can be permanently harmed. The plaintiff has the burden of proof in a birth injury case. Therefore, a plaintiff must do more than just prove that a child suffers from cerebral palsy. A medical expert is needed to testify as to the specific cause of the disability. The medical expert will also determine whether it is a result of medical error or medical negligence. A doctor or hospital failing to provide the accepted standard of care may be a factor in a cerebral palsy birth injury. Responsible medical parties in a cerebral palsy medical malpractice case can include an OB-GYN, surgeon, doctor, nurse, hospital or healthcare clinic or others.
Statute of limitations in Pennsylvania cerebral palsy cases
If you feel your child was the victim of medical negligence or has cerebral palsy as the result of a medical error you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries, as well as resulting medical treatment. It is not too late to hold the responsible medical providers accountable for their negligent actions. A statute of limitations establishes the deadline for filing a lawsuit. If the injured victim is a minor at the time the injury or accident occurred, such as in the event of a birth injury, the statute of limitations does not begin until the victim turns 18. An injured child or minor has 2 years to file a lawsuit after they turn 18.
If your baby has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you believe that medical error or hospital error could have been the cause, you need to contact a medical malpractice lawyer. An experienced cerebral palsy birth injury lawyer can review the details of the case and help determine if medical negligence did cause your child’s birth injury. Medical errors leading to cerebral palsy can occur during pregnancy, labor and birth. They may also occur immediately following the birth of your baby.
Distasio & Kowalski medical malpractice lawyers
The birth injury lawyers at Distasio & Kowalski in Wilkes-Barre can help you to obtain the compensation you deserve. It is our goal to help your family overcome the lifelong difficulties associated with cerebral palsy or other birth injuries. This can include compensation for past and future medical expenses and caretaking costs, as well as for pain and suffering. We are a personal injury firm dedicated to getting injury victims the best possible legal results and holding medical professionals accountable for the harm they cause.
Read more on birth injuries and medical malpractice compensation on our website. Learn more about the early signs of cerebral palsy and screening on the CDC website.
It’s usually one of the happiest times of a couple’s lives. Expectant parents anxiously preparing and awaiting the birth of a new baby. Tragically, excitement can quickly turn to heartbreak for parents when something goes wrong and an infant is born injured or suffering in some way. It’s an important time to be sure you understand the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. While this is a confusing time for new parents, filled with a mix of emotions, it is important to determine the cause of your baby’s suffering. Knowing the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect can be very important in determining if there was any medical negligence involved in harm caused to your baby. If there was negligence or a medical error, you may be eligible for compensation for those injuries and for ongoing medical treatment for your newborn.
What is a birth injury?
Birth injuries usually happen during or immediately after the labor and delivery process. Injuries could possibly result from excessive force or trauma during delivery. Birth injury may also result from failure to monitor the baby for fetal distress or from other medical errors or substandard care during or after the birthing process. This can include misdiagnoses or failure to diagnose potential complications during pregnancy and delivery. It may also include delayed C-section and mistakes involving forceps, vacuum or other birthing tools, among other medical errors. Unlike birth defects, birth injuries are preventable in many cases, depending on the circumstances. Right Diagnosis from healthgrades reported that 7 out of every 1,000 children born in the United States are born with birth injuries each year.
Some examples of birth injuries include:
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE
What is a birth defect?
Birth defects occur as a baby is still developing in the mother’s womb. That’s a main difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. Birth defects are medical conditions or abnormalities that could occur as a result of a variety of causes. This can include certain genetics, infections, exposure to chemicals or drugs, or possibly unhealthy lifestyle choice. Birth defects can have serious and lasting effects on a child.
Examples of birth defects can include disorders such as brain damage, Down syndrome, spina bifida, congenital heart defect, cleft lip or palate, limb or cranial abnormalities, and metabolic disorders. The CDC estimates that birth defects affect one in every 33 babies. This is about 3 percent of all of the babies born in the United Sates each year.
What to do when your infant suffers a birth injury
Sadly, birth injuries are far too common and can mean life-long health consequences for your child. Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen personal injury attorneys see the tragic effects that medical errors have on the lives of families in our area. Bringing a child into the world should be a joyous event. It should not be marred by substandard medical care. Doctor’s and other healthcare providers have a “duty of care” to uphold when treating patients. If they fail to provide that established standard of care, they can be held liable for injuries that occur. It’s time to call an injury attorney.
Getting legal help for birth injuries
We hope this helps you to better understand the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. If you suspect that your newborn may have been injured as the result of medical negligence or a medical error, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney. Although you are emotional and overwhelmed when you are dealing with a seriously injured child, you owe it to yourself and your family to determine the cause of the injuries. You want to hold the responsible party accountable. You also want to ensure that the long-term medical and emotional needs of your child are met. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to assess your situation and help you explore your legal options.
Medical negligence can lead to birth injury or the death of a child. A birth injury can affect the quality of life of a child, as well as an entire family, resulting in a lifetime of medical treatment and financial hardship. It’s imperative that an experienced birth injury attorney determines if your child is suffering from a preventable birth injury or unavoidable birth defect.
Statute of limitations for birth injury cases in Pennsylvania
The statute of limitations is a time period in which you can legally file your birth injury claim. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice suit is two years. However, when the patient is a minor, the Minor’s Tolling Statute allows for added time if the patient is under the age of 18. The two-year time limit would begin to run on the child’s 18th birthday.
For more information on your legal options in a birth injury case, contact the Wilkes-Barre personal injury lawyers at Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen toll free at 855-970-5400.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that physicians must obtain informed consent. A physician is personally responsible for obtaining informed consent from a patient prior to performing medical procedures. As a result, physicians cannot delegate this duty to other staff members, such as nurses or physician’s assistants.
Informed consent is defined as a formal agreement that a patient signs. The agreement gives permission for a medical procedure after having been told about the risks, benefits, etc. The goal of Informed consent is to be sure that the patient fully understands the procedure or treatment. And is also aware of the risks, benefits and other possible alternatives.
PA Malpractice Lawsuit – Physicians must obtain informed consent
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that physicians must obtain informed consent came as the result of Shinal v. Toms. This wasa medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Geisinger Hospital in Danville. The case came about as the result of a brain surgery that went wrong. Consequently, the surgery resulted in serious injury to the patient. The patient suffered a stroke, brain injury and partial blindness. Most noteworthy according to the lawsuit, the physician’s assistant, not the operating physician, provided the patient with information about the procedure. It was also the assistant, and not the physician who obtained the patients signature on the consent form. Finally, the plaintiff claimed she was never informed of the risks of the surgery or alternative treatments.
The PA Supreme Court ruling outlined that the duty to obtain a patient’s informed consent is a non-delegable duty. The duty belongs solely to the physician conducting the surgery or treatment. “A physician cannot rely on staff to disclose sufficient information required to obtain a patient’s informed consent. Without direct dialogue and a two-way exchange between the physician and the patient, the physician cannot be confident that the patient comprehends the risks, benefits, likelihood of success and alternatives.”
Law Regarding a Patient’s Informed Consent
The PA Supreme Court decision that physicians must obtain informed consent is limited to the procedures mentioned in Section 504 of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act. The act specifically states: A physician owes a duty to a patient to obtain Informed Consent of the patient or the patient’s authorized representative prior to the conducting the following procedures:
Surgery, including the related administration of anesthesia;
Administering radiation or chemotherapy;
Administering a blood transfusion and all blood products;
Inserting a surgical device or appliance; and
Administering an experimental medication, using an experimental device or using an approved medication or device in an experimental manner.
Your Rights as a Patient
Physicians must obtain informed consent. It is the right of every patient who needs to undergo a medical procedure, surgery or other medical treatment, to expect to be receive the information necessary about the treatment to make an informed decision. This information should include your diagnosis and the proposed treatment plan. Furthermore, it should also include any and all risks involved with the procedure or treatment, benefits of the treatment and also alternatives to the recommended course of treatment. Finally, a patient should be asked to sign an informed Consent Form only after being informed of all of these risks, benefits and alternatives, and it is clear that the patient understands all of the information.
If a patient is not fully informed of the risks involved with a medical procedure or treatment, and a serious injury occurs as the result of the treatment, the patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice suit. Certain situations may arise where informed consent is not required, such as in the event of an emergency. This may occur when a patient is unconscious and enters the emergency room with the life threatening injury.
Medical Malpractice Injuries
Have a question about the informed consent law, call us for more information. If you have been injured as a result of a medical error and would like to speak to an attorney, contact us today. If you have suffered due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, we can help. Call the medical malpractice attorneys at Distasio Kowaslski in Wilkes-Barre today at 570-970-5400.