How to Know if Medical Malpractice Might Have Occurred

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of S. Randall "Randy" Hood with McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC.

How to Know if Medical Malpractice Might Have Occurred
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While most doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of their patients, when malpractice occurs in the medical environment, the consequences can be devastating. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional such as a doctor, nurse, surgeon, or medical facility does not exercise a proper standard of care, which results in the serious injury or wrongful death of a patient.

The thing about medicine, similar to law, is that to the untrained eye it can be extremely difficult to identify what the proper standard of care looks like. The medical field is so specialized that for someone without medical training, identifying when malpractice occurred and even what malpractice looks like can be extremely difficult.

Medical malpractice may result in new or worsened conditions.

The trouble with medical malpractice is that in most cases, someone seeking medical treatment is already suffering from poor health in one way or another. Some forms of medical malpractice may exacerbate the existing condition and/or result in new injuries or conditions.

For example, if medical staff fail to diagnose cancer in a patient before it becomes aggressive, the chances of remission may be lower than for a cancer patient whose condition is noticed much earlier. Another example of medical malpractice may be failing to maintain a clean environment or take proper sanitary precautions, resulting in dangerous and complication infections.

The following signs may indicate medical malpractice has occurred:

  • Misdiagnosis: If a condition was misdiagnosed it is likely to be treated inaccurately, which could allow the condition to worsen and may even create new problems that did not exist before. That said, misdiagnosis is not always the result of malpractice; it depends on whether or not the correct diagnosis would have been made by a similar medical professional in the same position.
  • Failure or delay to diagnose: If a condition was overlooked entirely or should reasonably have been identified much sooner, malpractice may have occurred in the form of failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis. Similar to misdiagnosis, failing to diagnose a serious condition or waiting to diagnose that condition could create the opportunity for the condition to worsen and thus become more difficult to treat.
  • Unusual recovery symptoms: When a patient experiences unexpected symptoms after a treatment or procedure that do not align with standard recovery symptoms, this could indicate malpractice.
  • Poor communication: When medical personnel appear unwilling to discuss the details of a treatment or procedure with the patient or their family, this could indicate that there may be something to hide.
  • Medical records withheld: If medical staff refuse to release medical records to the patient or family members with the legal authority to request them, this could indicate malpractice occurred and may be detected based on the records.
  • Recovery symptoms worsening with time: An increase of post-treatment pain, fatigue, or other symptoms rather than a decrease as time passes could indicate complications arising that may or may not be the result of medical malpractice.
  • Lack of informed consent: Medical staffmembers are required to inform the patient of any potential risks associated with their treatment or procedure prior to the patient agreeing. If the patient suffers from a new or worsened condition after their treatment that they were not previously warned about, medical malpractice in the form of lack of informed consent may have occurred.
  • Incorrect dosage/medication: If you or a loved one were given the incorrect medication or dosage of a medication, the effects can be serious. This could indicate that medical staff were inattentive and/or that they did not rely sufficiently on the patient’s medical history.
  • Gut instinct: Humans are perceptive; if the patient or their family has a strong suspicion or gut feeling that something was done incorrectly in regard to the patient’s medical care, this alone could indicate a need to investigate the situation further.

To learn more about medical malpractice or for help investigating your case, reach out to a medical malpractice attorney in your area.

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