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When a Fatal Medical Mistake Occurs, It May Be a Case of Negligence

A patient goes to the emergency room with severe abdominal pain and a distended abdomen. A doctor marks her case as “urgent” and orders blood work, but she isn’t seen until four hours later. Doctors operate on her, looking for an embolism, unaware that she had internal bleeding. She died on the operating table because the blood work that could have saved her life was lost in the lab.

This fatal medical mistake is an actual mishap that occurred in Lincoln Hospital in New York. Unfortunately, cases such as this are not uncommon. When hospitals or physicians are negligent in the care they provide, their errors can cost patients their lives. In fact, an estimated 400,000 people die each year as a result of medical negligence and unintended harm, according to a Patient Safety America article. Thousands of families are left mourning their loved ones whose lives likely could have been saved, had those in which they entrusted their care done their jobs properly.

Why are fatal medical mistakes so common?

The medical industry has fairly rigorous standards and procedures for identifying and treating patients. Staff are supposed to be adequately trained and provide sufficient care promptly. Not all medical professionals stay on task, though. Understaffing, poor management and sloppy pre-op practices are often to blame for patient harm.

One major flaw in the health care services in the nation is that it’s a system based on business and profits, values that often cloud or supersede quality care. Dr. Lucian Leape, a surgeon and professor at Harvard's School of Public Health, told Bankrate: “The United States is the only country in the world that has a business-based health care system; everybody from the drug and insurance companies to the hospitals and medical-device makers is in it for the buck. That's fundamentally antithetical to the public good."

Also, a marked lack of transparency in the industry is a major contributing factor to medical errors. There is no federal reporting agency for medical negligence patient harm or fatalities, no searchable database and no real reporting requirements whatsoever. As Director of Consumer Reports' Safe Patient Project Lisa McGiffert notes, "What we have is a system that feigns accountability that gives the illusion of accountability but is not accountable at all. You have doctors and patients who trust that this system is working, but it's not."

Examples of Fatal Medical Mistakes

When professionals sidestep the standards, aren’t diligent in their care, make careless mistakes or don’t carefully follow industry protocols, people get hurt, plain and simple. Below are a few common mistakes doctors make that wind up causing fatal harm to patients and constitute a medical malpractice wrongful death claim.

  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Misdiagnosing a patient or failing to diagnose a patient
  • Delayed care or ignoring a patient’s symptoms
  • Prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage
  • Performing an unnecessary treatment
  • Failing to review patients’ medical histories thoroughly, e.g., providing a blood transfusion with an incompatible type of blood
  • Misplacing lab work, misinterpreting results or mixing up patients' lab work
  • Failing to administer proper anesthesia
  • Leaving medical instruments inside of patients after surgery

Legal Help after You’ve Lost Someone Due to Medical Negligence

If you’ve lost a loved one because she or he didn’t receive proper care, we encourage you to call a wrongful death attorney at Francis Law Group in Orlando for help. We can help you pursue damages you’ve sustained and hold negligent providers accountable for the harm they’ve caused.

Call us today at 407-363-9939 for a free consultation or fill out our online contact form.