If Your Doctor Chooses the Wrong Treatment, You Can Sue
Most of us place a lot of trust in the expertise of our doctors and hospitals. We like to think that we are safe in their hands.
However, this is not always the case. Doctors and other healthcare providers are human. Sometimes, they make mistakes. They make mistakes in diagnosis. They make mistakes in prescribing medicines. They make mistakes in suggesting unnecessary surgery.
They also make mistakes in choosing treatments.
After Diagnosis, Treatment
Doctors and other healthcare providers follow certain steps to correctly (one hopes) diagnose an illness, condition or injury. Armed with this information, the healthcare professional next designs and implements a course of treatment. Even when the provider’s diagnosis is correct, errors can occur during the treatment phase.
To determine the best type of treatment, a doctor should rely upon his or her training and experience, current medical literature and protocol, and sometimes consultations with other doctors. Failure to do so, like using an outdated treatment when a better one is now the norm, can be a treatment error.
Errors Must Occur, Not Just Poor Outcomes
Of course, these treatments need to be actual errors — not just a patient’s failure to respond as hoped to a given treatment or procedure. If most competent doctors would have followed the same course of treatment with similar (even though unsatisfactory) results, then it is not medical malpractice.
On the other hand, if the doctor treats the patient in a way that differs from the treatment plans of other competent doctors and the results are poor, the patient could have a claim. In addition, the erroneous treatment needs to have resulted in actual injury and damage to the patient.
It may also be malpractice if the doctor selects the appropriate treatment, but makes a mistake in administering the treatment. This can happen during procedures or surgery.
Surgical Errors Are Not Uncommon
Every surgical procedure includes some degree of risk or complication, but errors can compound these risks. About 80 times each week, mistakes are made during surgeries performed in the United States. And these are just the reported mistakes.
Errors during surgical procedures can include anesthesiology errors, wrong-site errors, wrong-patient errors, faulty incisions, nerve damage and (the classic) leaving materials such as surgical sponges inside a patient when closing an incision. Post-surgical treatment complications can include blood clots, pneumonia and infected incisions.
Errors during surgery can be caused by inadequate preoperative planning; miscommunication before, during and after surgery; a surgeon or assistant who is fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol; neglecting basic practices such as properly sterilizing equipment; or simple incompetence.
Failure To Warn Can Be Malpractice
Doctors have a duty to warn patients of the known risks of a particular course of treatment or procedure. This is called the “duty of informed consent.” If a patient is injured by a treatment or a procedure, and the doctor failed to warn the patient of this possible outcome, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice.