Doctors undergo very thorough training and are subject to ongoing scrutiny. Their employers have high standards for productivity in most cases, and state licensing authorities can penalize physicians who make mistakes on the job or who run afoul of the law.
Given all the requirements in place for someone to practice medicine, patients generally trust that the medical professionals who provide their care are both compassionate and competent. However, doctors frequently make mistakes on the job, and when they do, those errors can prove devastating for their patients. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor fails to provide a professional standard of care to a patient. How common is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a leading cause of death
Researchers estimate that medical errors, including failure to diagnose and medication mistakes, contribute to thousands of preventable deaths each year. In fact, many people believe that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Some research claims that as many as 250,000 to 440,000 people die because of medical errors each year.
Countless others experience medical errors that do not prove fatal. Doctors make diagnostic mistakes that delay someone’s treatment and leave them needlessly suffering. Nurses and other professionals working at hospitals make drug administration errors that may affect someone’s comfort or diminish the success of their treatment without endangering their lives. A lot of the research on medical mistakes relies on self-reported data provided by those in the medical industry. Therefore, it is all but impossible to know exactly how many people indoor preventable medical errors each year.
What happens when a patient suspects malpractice?
When a patient believes that the professionals providing their care have made significant errors, they may need to advocate for themselves. Keeping written notes about one’s experience at a medical facility could help. People may also want to obtain copies of their medical records so that they can seek a second opinion.
Talking with a physician not affiliated with the practice or hospital where the mistake occurred is often an important step for those who believe they received substandard care. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit to lead to an insurance payout that can cover someone’s treatment expenses, lost wages and other financial consequences generated by the malpractice. Holding a physician or hospital accountable can both compensate a patient affected by medical malpractice and help to protect others from experiencing the same issue in the future.