Medical professionals face stressful situations every day. Sometimes their standard of care slips due to fatigue, unexpected situations, or reckless behavior. When this happens, medical mistakes can occur, leading to serious injury or death. The medical malpractice examples below serve to inform you about what medical malpractice is and what it can look like to non-medical professionals.
What is medical malpractice?
In British Columbia, medical mistakes that result in malpractice are those that involve negligence and long-term harm. Negligence equates to more than a simple mistake. The consequences of healthcare provider negligence or impropriety form the basis of a medical malpractice claim. When a doctor’s duty of care is not met, serious physical and emotional harm can result, up to, and including, death. Medical malpractice claims are made to compensate victims for the harm incurred as a result of medical negligence and malpractice.
6 Medical Malpractice Examples
Evidence in medical malpractice cases often involves comparing an offending practitioner’s actions to how other clinicians would have behaved in similar circumstances.
The examples below constitute medical malpractice if they violate accepted medical standards and codes of professional conduct.
Failure to Diagnose or Treat
Even with years of education and experience, most skilled medical professionals can misdiagnose a patient. Failure to diagnose and treat are among the more common medical mistakes. An appropriate standard of care should always be upheld, even when urgently treating a patient.
The lawyer assisting you with your claim would likely need to show there was failure or delay in treating you. These can be caused by failing to recognize obvious symptoms, improperly interpreting test results, or neglecting to order necessary tests.
Discrimination-Based Care Refusal
Medical malpractice laws in Canada call the act of refusing a patient medical treatment due to personal or religious beliefs “conscientious objection to providing care.” However, a doctor must be legally prepared to defend their conscientious objection. If refusal of care is due to discriminatory beliefs, action can—and should—be taken. If a doctor or healthcare organization has cited conscientious care as a reason for choosing one type of care over another, seek advice from a lawyer to determine whether your situation was a legitimate instance of conscientious care.
Failure to Get Informed Consent
Receiving appropriate legal consent before a medical procedure is critical. It becomes even more important if there is a medical error during a procedure leading to serious injury. Physicians can face battery or assault claims if consent is not properly sought or received.
Most importantly, consent can only be granted by a fully-informed individual. If the attending physician does not seek consent or leaves out pertinent information regarding a course of action and its alternatives, then they may be held liable for medical malpractice. There are three types of consent: implied, expressed, and voluntary.
All surgeries involve risk but those risks should be mitigated by the doctors who proactively anticipate the dangers of a surgery based on a patient’s unique needs. Responsible surgeons will follow the accepted standards of care and act on their experience to provide exceptional medical intervention when a situation warrants it. However, if a surgeon ignores standards of care during a surgery, or fails to account for the patient’s medical history in their surgical plan their actions may not be medically justifiable.
Common surgical mistakes include operating on the wrong body part, leaving instruments or sponges in the patient’s body, or cutting in the wrong place. These are egregious examples but surgical errors can also be subtle, such as choosing unnecessarily invasive treatment or damaging healthy tissue. These can often result from a surgeon’s recklessness or fatigue.
Dispensing medication is among the most frequent and important jobs a practitioner engages in, making it a huge issue when done incorrectly. Medication mistakes can involve errors such as dispensing or prescribing the incorrect medication, administering the wrong dosage, or prescribing medication that is contraindicated for a patient’s condition or another medication the patient is taking. This example of medical malpractice could involve both the prescribing practitioner and pharmacist dispensing the medication.
Birth injuries involve medical negligence leading to long-term harm directly before, during, and after the birthing process. Numerous complications can arise for newborns during birth and unless these are adequately handled, serious infant injury can result.
It takes a combination of lawyers and physicians to establish that a birth injury was caused by those who oversaw the birth. Injured babies must frequently undergo a series of medical evaluations and tests such as blood tests, MRIs, X-rays, and brain scans to determine whether negligence occurred. Parents and guardians can make a medical malpractice claim based on a birth injury up to two years after it occurs.
Common causes of birth injuries include stressful births, fetal hypoxia, delayed birth, breech birth, failure to promptly diagnose and treat jaundice, and improper cesarean (C-section) deliveries. Common birth injuries include paralysis, types of palsy, bone fractures, brain bleeding, and other types of hemorrhage.
Claiming Medical Malpractice
Those making a medical malpractice claim must demonstrate that a medical mistake directly caused long-term physical, emotional, or financial harm. For instance, doctors can occasionally ignore the symptoms of a common illness that a patient quickly recovers from. Although this could still constitute negligence that can be addressed by the legal or medical authorities, the victim may ultimately not have a medical malpractice claim. However, if this scenario leads to serious effects on the patient’s physical or mental health, then the medical mistake may rise to the level of medical malpractice.
Malpractice lawyers, such as the Stephens & Holman team, can help guide clients through the medical malpractice laws in Canada.