Common Birth Injuries Affecting Mothers
Although modern hospitals have advanced methods and high-tech equipment intended to make labor and delivery as safe and painless as possible, medical professionals can still make mistakes. The following birth injuries can occur if doctors, nurses, or other medical staff members are negligent:
- Uterine rupture – This injury occurs when a mother’s uterus spontaneously tears, which can cause the fetus to slip into the peritoneal cavity.
- Prolapsed uterus – This condition involves pelvic floor muscles that weaken over time and allow the uterus to sag downward.
- Perineal tears – Tears to the skin and soft tissues surrounding the vaginal opening and anus during vaginal childbirth cause perineal tears.
- Hemorrhaging – This dangerous medical condition causes excessive bleeding that can happen after the birth of a baby and can be fatal in some cases.
- C-section errors – Medical errors during Cesarean section deliveries, such as internal lacerations, improper wound closures, and fetal oxygen deprivation can have devastating effects on both the mother and child.
- Abnormal uterine bleeding – A mother’s loss of two or more pints of blood that occurs within 24 hours of delivery is referred to as abnormal uterine bleeding.
- Preeclampsia/eclampsia – Preeclampsia, or sudden spikes in a pregnant mother’s blood pressure, can lead to eclampsia, which can result in seizures or coma.
- Infection – Infections occur when germs and bacteria enter the uterus during or after labor and delivery.
What Are Common Types of Medical Errors
Doctors, nurses and medical staff can make any number of mistakes that can cause treatment to go awry. By learning more about some of the most common types of medical errors, we hope you better understand what may have occurred in your own situation. Getting a thorough and objective review of the specific facts in your case by an experienced medical malpractice lawyer will always be a critical first step in seeking the justice you deserve.
Emergency Room Errors
Emergency rooms can be rushed, hectic environments. Due to those conditions, doctors, nurses and staff may make mistakes when they test, diagnose and treat patients. In some instances, ER staff members may fail to communicate vital information when they hand off a patient to another individual or team. Hospitals should have systems in place to prevent emergency room malpractice.
Missed or Delayed Diagnosis
A misdiagnosis of one’s symptoms can lead to unnecessary treatment or the failure to get timely treatment. It can occur when a doctor fails to thoroughly examine and communicate with a patient or fails to conduct proper tests. In some cases, the missed or delayed diagnosis may be traced to the doctor’s lack of knowledge and experience. The damage may be irreversible in some cases such as those that involve cancer or heart attacks.
Misread X-rays, Slides & Ultrasounds
When a doctor misreads an X-ray, slide or ultrasound, the mistake may be either a “false positive” (diagnosing a condition that does not exist) or a “false negative” (failing to detect the patient’s actual condition). In either case, the misreading can lead to ineffective or missed treatment and place patient’s health in serious jeopardy. Sometimes this can lead to a significant delay in the diagnosis of a condition.
A patient may suffer serious or fatal illness if a doctor prescribes the wrong type of medication, or if the patient receives the wrong dose of medication. Miscommunication is a major cause of medication errors. For instance, a pharmacist may misread a doctor’s abbreviations, symbols and dose expressions on a prescription sheet due to the doctor’s illegible or confusing handwriting. The failure to properly input the correct dosage can also be a common medication error.
Anesthesia errors may occur because a doctor failed to properly evaluate a patient in advance of giving anesthesia or a failure to appropriately monitor the patient during the administration of anesthesia. For instance, a patient may be allergic to certain types of anesthesia and suffer an adverse reaction. Doctors and nurses may fail to respond promptly to the patient’s distress because they were not carefully checking the patient’s vital signs. The wrong medication may be given or a medication may be omitted. “Anesthesia awareness” can result from the negligence during anesthesia.
Unfortunately, many careless mistakes can occur before, during or after a surgery. This can include the failure to properly work up a patient prior to surgery or recommending an unnecessary procedure. During the surgery these errors can include operating on the wrong site, causing an injury during the surgery, failing to recognize a complication during the procedure, or leaving behind a foreign object such as a sponge or surgical instrument. The failure to timely respond to post-operative complications can also be a negligent act. Surgeon distraction, fatigue, inexperience and miscommunication are among the leading causes of grave mistakes that happen during a surgery.
Birth injuries often occur because doctors, nurses or midwives missed signs and symptoms during the prenatal care, during labor or the failure to respond promptly to signs of trouble during the delivery or to timely perform a C-section. The mother as well as the child may suffer injuries. The child’s injury could lead to a lifelong disability such as cerebral palsy.
Nursing Home Negligence
The failure to provide appropriate care to the elderly in a nursing home can result in significant harm or death to an elderly patient. This can include Stage IV ulcers and the failure to timely diagnose or treat a life-threatening condition
Failure to Monitor
Even though doctors, nurses and staff have around-the-clock access to patients in the hospital. They may fail to routinely check on them and detect bleeding, infections or changes in vital signs that require immediate attention.
As you can see, most of these medical errors are entirely avoidable. They often result from negligence such as:
- Understaffing (leading to overworked, fatigued doctors and nurses)
- Lack of proper training and supervision
- Flawed electronic health records
- Breakdowns in communication
- Lack of protocol and procedure.
At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnso, our role is to find out what went wrong in the care and treatment of you or your loved one and to identify everyone that should be held responsible for it. We will determine every source of compensation available for the harm that you have suffered.
Common Types of Medical Negligence
At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, we see many types of medical malpractice. Common preventable medical errors involve:
A recent study published in the American Journal of Gynecology determined that birth injuries caused by trauma occur in an estimated 26 out of every 1,000 deliveries. Larger infants are more difficult to deliver and more susceptible to birth injuries caused by the use of excessive force from obstetrical tools such as forceps or vacuum devices. Complications that are missed or untreated during pregnancy can often lead to birth injury.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traumatic brain injury contributes to 30 percent of all injury-related fatalities in the U.S. Approximately 2.5 million people sustained traumatic brain injury in a recent year, per CDC. A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is any bump or blow to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts brain function. A brain injury can result from hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen, due to a medical provider’s over-medication. Traumatic brain injuries range from brief changes in mental status to severely compromised function to extended periods of unconsciousness or amnesia.
Many anesthesia complications occur when a patient is not properly evaluated before a procedure or carefully monitored during and after a procedure. Patients should never die or suffer serious injury during surgery or immediately after because of adverse reactions to anesthesia. Anesthesia errors also include dosage errors, failure to intubate, delayed anesthesia delivery due to equipment problems, and negligent or improper administration of oxygen.
Doctors have a duty to reach a list of possible diagnoses that describe a patient’s symptoms, then to focus on ruling out the diagnoses that pose the greatest risk. A doctor who fails to follow these basic steps can miss a diagnosis, with serious consequences for the patient. Some of the more common medical errors we see involve failure to diagnose a heart attack or stroke. Timely diagnosis and treatment can mean the difference between life and death for patients with certain serious medical conditions.
According to a study published by the National Coalition of Health, cancer misdiagnosis occurs between 15 percent and 28 percent of the time. The study concludes that the causes of these many diagnostic medical errors include doctors who are strapped for time, medical records that are fragmented, pathology interpretation errors, missing important pieces of family medical history, and inflexible adherence to protocol on the part of medical professionals.
Hospitals are the most common institution named in medical malpractice suits likely due to the volume of patients they handle and the severity of the ailments these patients have.
Never events should never happen, right? This is unfortunately not the case. Never events include surgical errors such as operating on the wrong patient, performing surgery on the wrong body part, or performing the wrong operation. These mistakes can cause patients to undergo additional surgeries and prolonged time in recovery, leading to severe economical and emotional strain.
Emergency Rooms handle a large number of patients with a small amount of time per patient. The biggest malpractice problems that we see in these settings are related to delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, a negligent doctor is not uncommon. These issues arise due to lack of knowledge about the patient’s history, failure to order the proper tests, the high volume of patients, and the high stress environment that is present in Emergency Rooms.
Why Do Errors Occur in Healthcare?
Many factors contribute to the incidence of medical errors. Some common causes of medical errors include:
Too often, a doctor’s inexperience or lack of training in a particular area can lead to serious harm for the patient, particularly in emergency room environments. This situation can occur when doctors fill in for each other and with “locum tenens” work, in which physicians work temporarily in hospitals or practices that are not the location in which they normally practice. Medical errors can also occur when patients are handed off at the end of a shift or transferred to a different area, and when physicians have minimal training and are not yet familiar with new medical innovations.
Sleep deprivation, particularly among interns, has been a cause of medical errors and a source of concern. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study involving interns who were subjected to 24-hour or more work shifts as part of their post-graduate training, as compared for those who were limited to 16-hour work shifts. Researchers concluded that limited work shifts and increased sleep decreased the interns’ failures in attention while treating patients.
Medication errors are a common medical error made by nursing staff. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers found that nursing medication errors consisted of: Administering medication at the wrong infusion rate (32.03%); giving the wrong dosage of medication (28.11%), giving medication at unscheduled times (14.37%); giving medication two doses at a time (11.11%); drug elimination (8.49%); and giving a patient’s drug to another patient (5.88%).
Electronic health records
Problems with electronic health records (EHR) can result in major medical errors. For example, CNS News reports on a case in which a hospital in Texas admitted, evaluated, and released a patient suffering from Ebola, a typically fatal, contagious, viral disease. The hospital claimed that the error resulted from a flaw in its EHR.
Many times, medical facilities located in rural areas suffer from a lack of funding and resources. The greatest shortcoming often is a lack of qualified professionals. Many times these facilities located in rural areas are staffed by Nurse Practitioners and their ER departments with “locum tenens” doctors.
Communication errors cause many errors in healthcare settings. This lack of communication can happen between nurses and doctors, errors in Electronic Health Records, and also between patients and staff. It is easy for information to be misinterpreted, misspoken, or even for the communication to not exist at all. The best way for you to combat these errors is by being aware of your health history and giving your doctor all of the information that you can on your condition. Check out our list of questions to ask your doctor before and after surgery for more information.
Reducing Your Risk for Medical Errors
Medical errors and malpractice can occur at any point in the healthcare system, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The Agency offers a number of suggestions to help patients remain safe in the system, including these tips:
- Ensure that all of your doctors know about all of your medications.
- Bring all your medications and your supplements to your doctor visits.
- Inform your doctors of any allergies or reactions to medication.
- Ask your doctor for information about your medications in terms you can understand.
- Ask for written information on the side effects of medications you are prescribed.
- If you are having surgery, make sure that you and your doctor agree on what will be done.
- If you have concerns, speak up.
- Ensure that your care is being coordinated by someone such as your primary care doctor.
- Learn all you can about your condition and treatment by asking doctors and nurses.
What Goes into Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Indiana?
A medical malpractice lawsuit seeks to hold negligent medical professionals accountable and to possibly prevent others from suffering similar injuries in the future. At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, we can carefully guide your case through the three basic stages of a medical malpractice case:
First, we try to identify if we believe there is a potential breach in the standard of care that has resulted in significant permanent injury or death. Many potential hurdles may cause us to decide that we are not interested in investigating a case, including, but not limited to the following:
- The complication was a risk of the procedure.
- We do not have enough time to investigate the case before the statute of limitations expires, or the statute of limitations has passed.
- We have a conflict of interest.
- We cannot prove that the negligence resulted in significant permanent injury or death.
If we think the potential claim may have merit, we will gather your medical records and other important information, including witness accounts, and we will review them with the nurses on our legal team. If their findings point to suspected medical malpractice, we can consult with an independent medical expert who has expertise in the relevant area of medicine. Our firm works with a network of highly knowledgeable experts, including professionals from schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and UCLA. An expert can help us to determine whether a medical professional failed to follow the recognized standard of care. The expert can also help us to establish whether your injury or illness would have occurred if the medical professional had not been negligent.
Medical Review Panel
If our review of your case indicates that medical malpractice caused harm to you or your loved one, we will advise you to move forward with filing a legal claim against the negligent health care provider (or providers). However, before we file the lawsuit in court, we must file the complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance Division of Medical Malpractice, which will appoint a medical review panel to review your case and report its opinion. This process has to be completed before a claim can be filed with a court and can take one to three years.
If you and our legal team believe your case has merit after the medical review panel has reported its opinion, and we have expert opinion supporting the claim, we can proceed with filing a lawsuit in the proper Indiana court – regardless of the medical review panel’s conclusion. Our attorney knows how to meticulously prepare a case for trial and will be prepared to put on a strong case in the courtroom. We can use that preparation as leverage in settlement negotiations with the medical care provider and/or insurance company. We will always report any settlement offers to you and advise you on whether it represents a reasonable amount.
The decision to accept a settlement offer or go to trial will always be yours – and yours alone – to make. If you wish to settle, we will help you with all paperwork. We will also make sure that your settlement funds are properly and timely disbursed.