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Common Medical Errors and the Law

Anyone who has been in a hospital for any length of time knows that there are a lot of opportunities for mistakes. The medical services industry puts tremendous pressures on the professionals who work within it. Long hours, chaotic environments, a constant stream of new patients, and a challenging regulatory regime together present a constant challenge for doctors, nurses, and other caregivers. The fact that problems are common is little comfort for patients who are injured as a consequence of mistakes. Efforts to quantify and mitigate medical errors have been ongoing for many decades. There are numerous challenges to coming to grips with them, beginning with constant change in the medical industry. Simply defining what an “error” is has been challenging for the industry as a whole. Some of the most common sources of errors include:
  • Problems with diagnosis: Interpreting a patient’s symptoms incorrectly can lead to improper administration of unnecessary treatments, while leaving the real problem unresolved. Or a patient’s condition may be correctly diagnosed but its severity underestimated.
  • Drug mistakes. Medications are linked to a wide variety of healthcare mistakes. Over- or underdosages, severe reactions, incorrect administration, and unmanaged drug interactivity are just a few examples of drug-related mistakes that happen regularly.
  • Infections. Hospitals work hard to keep their environments clean, but in a context where many people are ill an infection can be difficult to avoid.
  • Inadequate clinical care. Bed sores, blood clots, and other forms of preventable illness associated with long bed stays are examples of errors caused by an inadequate patient-care process.
Applicable legal standards sometimes leave considerable room for interpretation about what an error is. Many types of error will fall within the scope of professional negligence. Professional negligence applies to licensed medical professionals, like doctors, nurses, and dentists. To be liable for professional negligence the defendant must have failed to use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge in treating the patient. The challenge is that “reasonable care” can be a moving target. The patient’s age and health, the specific facts of the patient’s condition, and the defendant’s subjective qualifications (years of experience, training, and so forth) are all factors that define what reasonable care is in the circumstances. Importantly, the plaintiff must provide a sworn affidavit signed by a qualified professional that confirms the signatory’s opinion that the defendant failed to provide reasonable care. The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented Nevada clients in medical malpractice cases for over 45 years. If you have been injured by a medical error contact us today to learn about our legal options. For a free attorney consultation call 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.