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What is Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice case settlements can run well over $1 million per case. This amount includes payment for damages as well as pain and suffering. A Manhattan, NY jury awarded a woman, $8.5 million during June 2006 as settlement. She won this case against the medical community for causing her severe brain damage after surgery.

One of the common reasons for medical malpractice cases is misdiagnosis. It has been estimated that 12% of cancers examined by doctors in the US were misdiagnosed. Often, because of continuing symptoms the doctor orders new tests. Adequate testing means a correct diagnosis, and adequate time to treat these cancers. Unfortunately, adequate testing is not always performed in every case. One example of this type of case is the subject of a medical malpractice suit. This doctor was a department head of radiology, and was in charge of examination mammograms for evidence of breast cancer. This doctor is accused of missing many indications of breast cancers. If factual, this case would be an example of gross, inexcusable negligence.

One case involve a 37- year old woman who was in a semi-comatose state for over a year and doctors failed to relieve pressure on her brain. The woman had had brain surgery, and had a shunt installed to let her brain drain. She came back to the emergency room of the hospital, Mt. Sinai, 5 weeks later. She was in a great deal of pain. Doctors let her wait for hours. They failed to perform a CT scan of her brain, which would have shown the problem. This woman had adequate health insurance, so payment was not the issue. This case is an example of failure of medical personnel to maintain a recognized standard of care. It is also a case of lack of treatment in an appropriate amount of time. This case emphasizes the shortage of adequate nurses, doctors and services, even at a highly recognized hospital.

Misdiagnosis also occurs with more frequency in an emergency room or ICU setting. Because the emergency room or ICU is a stressful, hectic place, medical errors do happen. Also, failure to diagnose and treat in a timely manner is one of the most common types of misdiagnosis. Failure to diagnose and treat in a timely manner occurs in the emergency room or ICU more often because of the critical nature of the area. A quick diagnosis is not always the correct one, and emergency rooms and ICUs have to make relatively quick decisions. The two most misdiagnosed medical problems in the emergency room and ICU are myocardial infarction and appendicitis. These are most often misdiagnosed due to mistakes in analysing diagnostic tests. Delays in treatment or failure to treat heart and appendicitis patients in a timely manner are a problem for these patients.

More typical of medical malpractice misdiagnoses case is that of a 70-year old man who received a kidney transplant. He was transferred to a nursing home four and a half years later, with a list of over a dozen medications to take, including three to prevent rejection of the kidney. The patient was sent to a second nursing home, but only the first part of his prescription list was sent with him. Two of the three immuno suppressant drugs were missing because of this medication error. Within 4 months the man began to reject his kidney and shortly after died. Due to negligence of his nurse, medical director and other nursing home officials, a judgment of almost $1 million was found against the second nursing home. This is typical of the budget cutting and negligent approach of many medical institutions, which is aggravated by the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) mentality.

There are ways to prevent a misdiagnosis. See a physician. Ask the doctor to explain their diagnosis. Keep asking questions if the doctor's answers don't make sense. And if the diagnosis sounds wrong, tell the doctor right away. Perhaps there is something he or she missed, or the patient forgot to tell them. If you don't like the diagnosis, feel free to get a second opinion, even if your doctor has been the family physician for decades.

The doctor can also refer the patient to a specialist for further examination. Specialists frequently know the latest medical information in their field, and can be more precise in diagnosing some illnesses. Ask the doctor specifically about the illness and the ways that it will be treated. Ask if medical testing should be done. If the test results sound unlikely to be accurate, have the testing redone at another facility.

Hopefully, if the patient asks enough questions, he or she will prevent a medical malpractice misdiagnosis issue from happening in the first place. After all, you are ultimately responsible for your own health.