Common Forms Of Medical Negligence In The ER
Most people who visit an emergency department get the treatment they need in a timely manner. But unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. In a 23-year study period, researchers for the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) found records of 11,529 medical malpractice claims arising from events in emergency departments, resulting in over $664 million in total liability. This works out to over 500 emergency room malpractice claims per year. The true number of victims is likely larger – as not everyone who suffers from medical malpractice files a claim.
Some of the most common medical errors in emergency room malpractice claims include:
According to the same study by SAEM, diagnosis errors were the leading source of error over this study period – accounting for 37% of emergency room errors identified by malpractice insurers.
Diagnosis errors generally fall into one of three categories:
- Misdiagnosis – The incorrect diagnosis of an illness which is not present in the patient.
- Delayed diagnosis – Identifying the symptoms of an illness and making a diagnosis too late, which makes the illness worse.
- Failure to diagnose – Failing to diagnose a serious illness or injury at all.
Improper Medical Technique
Improper performance of a procedure was the second-most commonly cited example of medical negligence in emergency room malpractice claims – accounting for about 17% of claims. This category encompasses all of the procedural errors a medical professional could make, such as:
- Surgical errors – such as making an incision on the wrong body part, operating on the wrong patient, anesthetic errors, etc.
- Improper technique when delivering a child (such as misuse of vacuum extractors or forceps)
- Nurses failing to properly program an IV pump
Emergency rooms can get hectic, especially when there are several injured people waiting for treatment. But these departments have a responsibility to make sure the people who require immediate medical attention get it.
Federal law requires emergency room personnel to complete medical screening examinations for everyone who checks into an emergency department. If this examination determines that an emergency medical condition exists, the patient must either be treated at that facility in a timely manner. If this isn’t possible, then the hospital must transfer the patient to another hospital which has the capability to treat them.
When someone has an emergency medical condition that goes untreated, the results can be devastating. They could end up with permanent injuries and health problems or die because of the delayed treatment.
If a patient requires medication for their condition, it’s vital that the doctor makes sure he or she prescribes the right medication and right dosage. Medical professionals can be held liable for medication errors like prescribing the wrong medication, the wrong dosage, or failing to prescribe a medication which could have improved their patient’s condition.
Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act
In 1986, the United States Congress passed a federal law designed to protect emergency room patients. There are several guidelines intended to reach this goal, including:
- All Emergency Departments that accept Medicare payments must provide medical screening examinations to anyone seeking treatment for a medical condition – regardless of citizenship, legal status, or ability to pay for treatment.
- Participating hospitals are not permitted to transfer or discharge patients needing emergency treatment unless they have the informed consent or stabilization of the patient.
- If the hospital is not equipped to treat the emergency medical condition quickly and promptly, they must transfer the patient to another hospital which can.
Any participating hospital which fails to meet any of these standards may be held liable if the patient suffers unnecessary additional harm because of a lack of proper emergency medical treatment.
Do We Have A Case For A Malpractice Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one visited an emergency department and your injuries got worse because of negligent medical care, you should be aware of your legal options. It may not be immediately clear if medical negligence is to blame for the worsening of your condition, but having the medical records and evidence reviewed by an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer can help you make this determination.
At Monheit Law, our medical malpractice lawyers specialize in helping the victims of medical negligence secure financial compensation. We have contacts with medical experts, and will work with them to determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit. For more information on filing a medical malpractice claim, get in touch with us today for a free consultation.