Everyone has heard stories about a doctor operating on the wrong leg or giving someone the wrong dosage of a drug. These are just some examples of medical errors that occur every day in this country. Those types of mistakes can be the basis for a medical malpractice claim.
Medical Errors May Be Third-Leading Cause of Death in United States
Doctors have known for a long time that medical errors are prevalent. However, it is not a popular topic of discussion in the medical community, and no one knew how often they actually occurred. A recent study looked into the issue and found that medical errors might now be the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
The study estimated that if medical errors were accurately documented, they would account for 251,000 deaths per year. That comes out to 700 deaths per day, or about 9.5% of all deaths annually in the United States. This would put medical errors below only heart disease and cancer, and account for more deaths than those resulting from respiratory disease, accidents, and stroke.
The prevalence of medical errors had not been apparent for a long time because of the way deaths are recorded. The Centers for Disease Control uses a coding system that does not record common medical errors like communication breakdowns and diagnostic errors. The coding system counts only the “underlying cause of death,” which is the condition that led the person to seek medical treatment. However, the growing awareness in the medical community pushed researchers to find out more. Researchers noted that some errors result from careless medical providers, but others result from communication breakdowns, which can occur when a patient gets transferred from one facility to another.
Medical Malpractice and Causation
Medical malpractice is a type of lawsuit based on medical negligence. The basic elements that a plaintiff must establish in a medical malpractice claim are that a health care professional owed the plaintiff a duty, that the professional failed to meet the standard of care, that the plaintiff was injured as a result, and that damages were caused by the professional’s lack of care. Medical malpractice claims can be brought against physicians and also other medical professionals, such as chiropractors, dentists, nurses, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacists, and paramedics.
A key element to prove in a medical malpractice claim is causation. A plaintiff has to demonstrate that the medical professional’s breach of duty was the cause of the injury. The plaintiff must prove this by establishing that it is “more probable than not” that the negligent act caused the injury. However, this can be difficult to prove if multiple people were involved in the breach, if there was more than one cause of the injury, or if subsequent health care providers also provided medical care. For example, in the case of a medical error, causation can be difficult to demonstrate, since there is always an underlying cause that brought the patient to the hospital in the first place. A recent study sheds some light on just how prevalent medical errors are in this country and how difficult they can be to detect.
Have You Been the Victim of a Medical Error?
Medical malpractice is more common than most people are aware. If you have received medical treatment and believe that a medical error occurred, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice claims allow people to recover damages based on negligent medical care. The Chicago lawyers at Moll Law Group are available to advise individuals who have suffered from medical malpractice in pursuing the compensation they deserve. To arrange for a free initial consultation, call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us through our online form.
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Woman Injured by Hot Air Balloon While Standing in Line Permitted to Sue Despite Signed Waiver, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2016.