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How Do Medical Errors Result in Death?

August 23, 2021

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As much as we wish it wasn’t true, medicine is partially a guessing game. Even the most skilled, educated, and experienced healthcare providers must defer to their knowledge and intuition, whether they’re diagnosing or operating on patients. And sometimes, their knowledge and intuition fail them, resulting in their patients either not getting better, or getting worse.

Bad outcomes are part of medicine, but bad outcomes caused by negligence should never be tolerated—especially when they cause patients to suffer life-threatening or even fatal complications. Shockingly, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, with as many as 250,000 patients dying each year because of preventable mistakes.

In this blog, we break down how medical errors can claim the lives of patients and forever change the lives of their loved ones.

A missed or wrong diagnosis allowed the disease to worsen.

Many illnesses are time-sensitive. That means that for patients to recover or potentially be cured, the illness must be detected and treated early. Many diseases have noticeable symptoms that cause patients to seek the help of their doctors, which can then result in diagnoses and treatment plans.

But sometimes, patients’ symptoms are either misdiagnosed by their doctors, or they are inaccurately ascribed to a different condition altogether. When this happens, patients may go weeks, months, or even years while receiving either the wrong treatment or no treatment at all. For diseases like cancer, this mistake can allow it to spread and advance in stages until it becomes terminal.

A surgical error resulted in bleeding, organ damage, or severe infection.

Even minor surgery carries risks, including the risk of death. The more invasive a surgery, the greater the risk of potentially life-threatening complications. Surgeons undergo many years of schooling and training to become highly proficient in their fields to reduce the risks that their patients face when they go under the knife.

And while all surgeons make mistakes from time to time, some surgeons make preventable mistakes. Negligence-related mistakes can result in patients suffering uncontrollable bleeding, organ damage, and widespread infection—all of which can quickly prove fatal, even with immediate medical intervention.

A prescription error gave a patient the wrong medication or a dose that’s too high or low.

Prescription medications are a big part of treating many illnesses, diseases, and chronic health problems. But to be effective, they must be prescribed correctly and at the right dosage for a patient’s age, weight, and the severity of their condition.

Medication errors are more common than many people think. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives around 100,000 reports of medication errors annually, and around 400,000 drug-related injuries are reported in hospitals. When patients get the wrong medications, or the right medications but at the wrong dosages, they can suffer serious health problems that can quickly become life-threatening.

A discharge from the hospital was ordered too soon.

It’s common for patients who were hospitalized for surgeries or serious illnesses to end up back in the hospital within one month or less. That’s because hospitals often lack enough beds for very sick patients, and as soon as patients appear to be on the mend, they discharge them to finish recovering at home.

But when patients are discharged too early, they’re left to their own devices for following up on treatment and other recovery protocols. Patients and their families may be discharged with little instructions or information, and they may be ill-equipped to handle emergencies or sudden worsening of health. This can result in patients rapidly declining and even dying before they make it back to the hospital.

We Help Families Get Compensation After Fatal Medical Errors

When patients die under the care of doctors and surgeons, it’s important to determine what happened. Although not all deaths are the result of medical mistakes and negligence, some are. However, it’s not always easy to determine which is which on your own—and that’s where our lawyers come in.

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our Ohio medical malpractice lawyers have decades of experience investigating injuries and deaths that may be linked to mistakes made by doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare providers. We know how to collect evidence that proves negligence was a factor, and then we use that evidence to help victims’ families get maximum compensation.

Contact us today for a free consultation. You shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for a devastating loss that was caused by a preventable mistake.

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