A guest blog post by Doug Lovenberg at Lovenberg & Associates, P.C.


Medical errors in hospitals are now considered the third leading cause of death in the US, which is a frightening statistic. A new study has brought the number of patients who die from a preventable medical error to between 210,000 and 400,000 each year, substantially more than the previous figure of about 98,000 annually. Only heart disease and cancer account for more deaths.


Many health care liability cases occur as a result of overwhelmed staff or a lack of trained personnel including physicians. Regardless of the underlying factors, medical mistakes can lead to catastrophic injuries. These types of cases usually involve complex issues that only an experienced medical malpractice lawyer should handle. The following are some of the more common examples of medical malpractice:


•   Missed diagnosis

Irish researchers recently reported that after an exhaustive review of thousands of papers on medical malpractice claims, that misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis were the common medical malpractice claims constituting between 26 percent and 63 percent of total claims. Most missed diagnosis claims for adults concerned cancer and heart attacks. Others were appendicitis and bone fractures.


For children, cancer and meningitis were more commonly missed. A delayed diagnosis can lead to the lack of early treatment, which in cancer and heart attack cases can be fatal. On the other hand, a wrong diagnosis can lead to painful treatments and disability, such as chemo, for a cancer that does not exist.


•   Drug errors

The second most common medical malpractice claim concerned drug errors, accounting for between 6 and 20 percent of claims. Errors in prescribing, dosage and administration included antidepressants, steroids, antibiotics, anticoagulants and antipsychotic medications. Nearly half of fatal medication errors occurred in patients over the age of 60 since this group often takes multiple medications.


•   Missed test results

Malpractice claims arise because a doctor orders tests but then neglects to read the results. Consequently, the patient gets worse and does not receive the treatment that would have cured the condition or led to a recovery.


•   Wrong site surgery or Wrong patient

Few people can believe or accept that surgeons occasionally perform procedures on the wrong body part, do the wrong procedure, or do procedures intended for another patient. There are cases where the wrong limb was amputated. Most surgical procedures involve surgeons marking the site, though this is no guarantee that the correct side is marked. Poor communication is often the culprit in these and other surgical error cases. Checklists and timeouts or pauses to review the medical records are required in most settings, though these types of errors, though rare, continue to occur at rate of about 1 in every 112,000 procedures.


•   Anesthesia mistakes

Before a patient goes under anesthesia, a physician needs to note the patient’s characteristics and condition. Technicians and the physician need to consider the patient’s age, medical condition, past reactions, type of surgery, medications they are on and other factors, which if not considered can lead to heart attacks or respiratory failure. Constant monitoring of vital signs is essential along with fluid outputs at 5-minute intervals.


These mistakes also take place in dental offices, cosmetic surgery offices and include nurse practitioners, nurses, and residents.


Doug Lovenberg is a Boston lawyer who routinely handles medical malpractice claims including the type of claims explained here. If you have been the victim of a medical negligence including surgical error, misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis, call Doug Lovenberg today for a free consultation.