In 1995, a Florida hospital and surgeon made national news, but not in a good way. In a medical malpractice case that is still talked about today, a surgeon cut off a diabetic patient’s healthy leg instead of the diseased one. A string of hospital and physician errors led to the mistake. The surgeon defended himself, claiming the error might not be so bad since the wrongfully severed leg was not totally healthy.
Ultimately, the surgeon had his license to practice suspended, and the hospital temporarily lost its accreditation. The surgeon and hospital settled the patient’s medical malpractice claim for approximately $1.5 million (in 1995 dollars). The case resulted in hospitals across the country implementing new procedures to protect against similar operating room mistakes from happening again.
More recently, a man suffering from back pain was diagnosed in 2010 with osteoarthritis and a herniated disk at a Florida hospital run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Bay Pines. He was treated with pain medication for several years, but his condition worsened.
The veteran finally sought medical help at Florida Hospital where it was discovered he had stage 4 renal cancer that had metastasized to his bones. For four years, he had been under medical care at the VA hospital, but his doctors had failed to diagnose his cancer. He is currently battling with the veterans’ hospital for compensation for their failure to diagnose his cancer.
Top Injuries Associated with Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical negligence and malpractice claims and cases encompass five major areas of injuries. These injuries range from no injury at all to death. Each injury caused by medical negligence below has the percentage of the total injuries that occur.
- Death – 26%
- Major Physical Injury – 15% (Brain & Spine)
- Significant Physical Injury – 39%
- Minor, Emotional Injury, Breach of Consent – 17%
- No Adverse Injury – 3%
It was found that between the years of 2004 and 2006 that a considerable amount of deaths occurred due to preventable medical errors. During that time period, there were a total of 228,337 deaths due to medical negligence. There were only 38,363 victims of medical negligence that received any type of payout.
Every year, people suffer because the medical care they were provided fell below the standard of care provided by other similar practitioners in their community. While not every case of a poor medical result is caused by malpractice, here are several different types of malpractice incidents that may lead to litigation.
Operating Room Errors
As already noted, surgeons operate on the wrong body part. There are also incidents involving surgeons operating on the wrong person, or they may perform the wrong procedure. They may leave a foreign body inside the patient, like a sponge or surgical tool. The incision may have been improperly sutured, leading to infection. An organ may have been punctured. A vein, artery or nerve may have been injured or even severed. Oxygen deprivation due to an error by the anesthesiologist may result in lifelong brain damage or even death.
The wrong medication may be given, or the right medication in the wrong dosage. A medication designed for intramuscular injection (IM) may erroneously be given intravenously (IV). Pharmacists may be liable for medical malpractice if they provide inaccurate instructions to the patient concerning how to take the medication.
Failure to Properly Diagnose
A failure to properly diagnose can take many forms. For example:
- It can mean a complete failure to diagnose a serious disease or medical condition, as shown by the example of the Florida veteran. This type of failure means the patient goes without proper treatment and suffers harm or death, when a timely diagnosis may have meant a cure and a bright future.
- A wrong diagnosis that may result in unnecessary treatment. A Texas woman was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and underwent months of chemotherapy and suffered from debilitating side effects. Believing she would die soon, she gave away many of her personal belongings. As it turns out, she did not have breast cancer or any cancer. While that is ordinary good news, in this case, the woman definitely suffered damages due to the misdiagnosis. She went to trial and was awarded nearly $367,500.
Malpractice Resulting in Birth Injuries
Imagine the joy of giving birth to what had been a healthy fetus throughout the pregnancy, only to discover that, due to medical malpractice, the baby suffered a birth injury that will impact both the baby’s life and your own. Some examples are:
- Physicians and nurses fail to properly monitor the fetus’ oxygen levels during the labor and delivery process, and/or for a brief time immediately after birth.
- The unnecessary or improper use of forceps may cause head trauma or dislocation of a shoulder.
- A newborn may contract an infection during the birthing process due to a failure to diagnose the existence of disease-causing bacteria in the mother’s womb or birth canal.
Failure of Medical Personnel to Obtain Informed Consent
Patients may suffer from complications following a medical procedure and claim if they had been informed of the possibility of such complications, they would not have agreed to the procedure.
How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help
Florida has different laws that apply to medical malpractice cases than those that apply to ordinary negligence. The Statute of Limitations, which means the time you have to file your lawsuit after the incident before you are barred from ever legally collecting for your damages, is also different. Medical malpractice attorneys know how the laws apply to the facts of your case.
If you believe you were injured due to medical malpractice, or someone you love died as a result of the negligence of a medical professional, contact us at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC to schedule a free consultation.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.