At its core, medical malpractice refers to professional negligence by a healthcare provider whose treatment fell below the accepted standard of care and thus caused harm, injury, or death to a patient. This means that not all negative interactions with a doctor nor all injuries are sufficient conditions for a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, medical malpractice and medical error encompass an array of acts (and failures to act) by medical professionals.
Intensive care units, operating rooms, and emergency departments all have high error rates with serious adverse effects, but preventable medical errors can happen in any specialty and during all manner of procedures. Here are some of the most commonly cited areas for medical malpractice:
- Diagnosis: Missed diagnosis or failure to properly diagnose (e.g. stroke or heart attack); misreading of X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, or other diagnostic test; failure to make request for specialist consultation, referral, or transfer.
- Surgery: Improper surgical techniques; operating on the wrong body part or wrong site; anesthesia mistakes; leaving foreign object in the body; improper post-op procedures.
- Hospitalization and Care Facilities: Restraint-related injuries; falls from improper bed rails or restraints; burns, pressure ulcers, or bed sores; mistaken patient identities.
- Testing: Failure to order the proper tests; defective medical devices; unnecessary testing or treatment; tests you did not consent to.
- Medication: Adverse drug events; dangerous drugs; prescribing wrong medications or conflicting medications.