Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Medical Malpractice - Huge Mistakes and Quiet Victims

Medical malpractice kills an estimated 80,000 people, and injures thousands more, each year, but only two percent of malpractice victims seek compensation. Learn about medical malpractice and what you can do if you might be a victim.

Clearly, more victims of malpractice should take action, if not for their own benefit, then to deter future negligence and wrongdoing on the part of healthcare professionals. Yet, a bad medical outcome is not always due to malpractice. How can you tell the difference?

Medical malpractice is medical treatment by a healthcare professional that is below the standard of care expected in that community and results in harm to the patient. Medical malpractice can include negligent conduct that causes harm as well as the failure to take necessary action. More specifically, there are three elements which must be present in order to legally establish medical malpractice:

· A professional relationship must have existed between you and the healthcare provider

· The healthcare provider must have acted below the standard of care of similar healthcare providers in the same community

· The substandard care must have caused harm to you

The first element (existence of a professional relationship) is pretty basic and is rarely an issue. Casual contact with someone who happens to be a healthcare provider, outside of a medical setting, does not constitute a professional relationship. In the same vein, picking a doctor’s name out of the phone book, calling and asking a question, does not establish a professional relationship.

The second element (breach of the duty of care) can be much more difficult to establish. In extreme cases, substandard care is obvious. Two examples of substandard care are amputating the wrong limb or leaving a sponge inside the patient after surgery. Other types of malpractice, such as a misdiagnosis, may not be so obvious. Some rare health conditions can be overlooked or misdiagnosed, and yet not be considered malpractice. Other health conditions should be obvious when healthcare providers follow basic protocol.

The first step in determining whether or not a medical professional has breached his duty of care to you is to see another doctor. If you suspect medical malpractice, you are advised to talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney because the attorney may be able to identify a qualified doctor to render a second opinion.

Much like proving medical care fell below the expected standard, determining whether or not the substandard care caused harm can be complicated. It may seem obvious that it has, and in some cases it is, but you will, again, need an expert medical opinion. In some cases, the negative outcome would have occurred with or without the substandard care.

You also need to establish how much harm was caused by the breach of the duty of care. For instance, failure to diagnose breast cancer will likely result in progression of the cancer, the need for more aggressive treatment, and a reduced likelihood for recovery. Some cancers caught early enough can be easily eradicated, with little or no future impact, but if left to progress can require extensive treatment. Some medication errors may be completely harmless; however, others can be life-threatening. Medication error can cause brain injury, allergic reactions, worsening of a condition, and even death.

Medical malpractice will not only result in physical harm to the patient but can cause a great financial burden to the patient. Lengthy hospital stays, unnecessary tests, incorrect prescriptions, etc. are just some of the contributing factors to medical bills that your insurance may not cover. Add on lost wages, and the financial impact can be overwhelming.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been injured or died due to medical malpractice, your should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney today. In Washington and Oregon, the medical malpractice attorneys at Fuller & Fuller, have the experience to determine if you have a valid medical malpractice claim and help you through this difficult situation.

source : www.newswire.com

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