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Tucson Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Wrong diagnosis led to unnecessary surgery

Many people cannot imagine the strong emotions involved when being diagnosed with cancer. You may wonder how advanced the cancer is, what your treatment options are and whether or not you will survive. Now imagine how you would feel if you found out that you were wrongfully diagnosed with cancer, underwent surgery and now suffer irreversible damage due to medical negligence.

This is what happened to an Iowa man who underwent surgery and had his prostate removed due to a medical oversight. The clinic pathologist mixed up the man’s non-cancerous cell sample with another man who had cancerous prostate cells. Due to the mix up, the man was given a wrong diagnosis and was scheduled to have his prostate removed. After having the surgery performed, the clinic discovered the mishap. Consequently, the surgery caused nerve damage and the man is now incontinent and impotent.

Medication errors in the hospital

People who live in Arizona and must seek medical care or treatment at a hospital should be able to feel that they will receive good and safe care while there. Unfortunately, a hospital can actually be the very place where a person is injured when a medical error happens. Mistakes involving medications are one type of error that patients should be aware of.

As explained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a medical mistake involving a drug and harm to a patient is called an adverse drug event. It is estimated that five percent of people in hospitals actually experience these events. Furthermore, an estimated one out of every two adverse drug events is said to be preventable. 

The dangers of electronic health records

In this day and age of booming technology, electronic health care records in the medical field are standard. Patients who are seen by primary care physicians, have surgical procedures performed or have screenings ordered by a specialist, have their records recorded in a database that can be easily shared between medical professionals. Although this technology would seem to break the barriers of medical miscommunication and decrease the rate of medical errors, this may not be true.

In one case, a woman died of a brain aneurysm because of an electronic health records system failure. During this situation, the woman’s physician listened to her complaints of on-going head pain and issued an order for a brain scan to rule out any bleeding. Yet, the order was not transmitted properly, and the woman did not receive the brain scan which could have saved her life.

Medical errors the nation’s third-most common cause of death

When you feel under the weather and your symptoms do not go away after a few days, chances are, you schedule a visit to your Arizona doctor to find out what is going on and what you can do to improve your condition. Similarly, when you go under the knife or otherwise seek treatment at a hospital, you place the same level of trust in the people treating you, believing that they know what they are doing and that you are in good hands. At the Law Office of JoJene E. Mills, P.C., we understand that health care professionals, like everyone, are not immune to making mistakes, but the mistakes some doctors, nurses and others make can have devastating consequences.

According to CNBC, medical mistakes are surprisingly common across the United States, and so much so that they have now become the third-biggest killer of Americans after cancer and heart disease. Just what types of medical mistakes are today’s health care professionals prone to making, and is there anything you can do to help protect yourself?

Medication errors by nurses

Doctors are not the only healthcare providers who make medical mistakes. Nurses in Arizona and around the country are often a patient's primary caretaker during the course of a hospital or nursing home stay, and medication errors are common. These mistakes can lead to serious issues, and healthcare facilities should work on improving systems to reduce these types of errors.

According to Sanford-Brown, medication errors are one of the top five mistakes made by nurses, especially new ones. When it comes to medication, there are numerous factors to consider, and an error related to any of them can be disastrous. When a nurse gives medication to a patient, first it is important to make sure it is the right medicine and the right patient. The nurse needs to then give the right dose at the right time. It also needs the right route, whether that is orally, intravenously, nasally, intramuscularly, rectally or subcutaneously.

Are you able to return to work following a TBI?

If you suffer from a traumatic brain injury, you may be dealing with a wide-range of symptoms that can affect many areas of your life. You may find it difficult to concentrate, remember things, communicate with others, reason, problem-solve and schedule appointments. Furthermore, you may experience physical and psychological limitations, such as muscle weakness, fatigue, vision and auditory problems, depression, anxiety, and impulsivity. All of these things may affect your ability to return to work, or at least the position you held prior to being diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

When you do return to work, you may not be able to perform all of the tasks that you once did. Some employers will make changes to accommodate your limitations. Yet, you may be able to facilitate your transition back to work by incorporating the following:

  •          Take frequent rest breaks throughout your shift
  •          Take on less responsibilities when you first return
  •          Start by working shorter shifts then gradually increase to longer shifts
  •          Communicate your needs with your employer

Patients should stay involved to avoid misdiagnosis

Diagnostic errors are a serious problem in the United States. Studies suggest that more than 12 million adults seeking medical attention are given the wrong diagnosis every year. The numbers are even higher when looking at children. At least half of these misdiagnoses end in serious injuries or death. Many experts complain, however, that little is being done to improve the problem. When people are not able to receive a diagnosis and a treatment plan that is helping them to improve their situation and heal, they should take action to seek other answers that might lead to a solution. When patients stay active in their healthcare, they know when they are not receiving the medical attention they need.

If patients feel as though they have not received the right diagnosis, they should seek a second, third or fourth opinion. Not every doctor may have the right answer, as there are more than 10,000 conditions that can be diagnosed and more than 200 being added every year. With over 5,000 potential laboratory tests that may be ordered by a physician, not every doctor may be the right one to find the proper diagnosis.

Will your surgeon tell you (s)he made an error?

When you undergo a surgical procedure at an Arizona hospital, you put your life in the hands of your surgeon and the other operating room doctors, nurses and ancillary personnel. You expect all of them to possess the necessary skill and experience to operate on you and make you better. The last thing you expect is for one of them, particularly your surgeon, to make a mistake that could result in your injury or death.

As CBS News reported, when such a surgical error occurs, your surgeon should divulge the mistake to you per the national guidelines recommending such disclosure. Unfortunately, however, barely three-fifths of surgeons do, in fact, disclose the following things to their affected patients:

  • What type of surgical error occurred
  • How the error occurred and why
  • How badly (s)he feels about having committed the error
  • The level of concern (s)he feels with regard to your welfare
  • The steps (s)he intends to take to treat any problems you incur as a result of the error

How dangerous are hip replacements?

Hip replacements have long been the medical treatment of choice for people suffering from a variety of hip problems. However, if you underwent a pre-2014 hip replacement in Arizona, you should know that your metal-on-metal hip could be highly hazardous to your health.

The New York Times recently reported that one such patient, himself an orthopedic surgeon, ultimately suffered life-threatening injuries and medical conditions based on his 2006 hip replacement. The specific hip in question was a Johnson & Johnson ASR XL metal-on-metal hip. The patient continued to experience hip pain after his surgery that ultimately increased in severity to the point where he elected to undergo a second surgery in 2011 to remove it. His surgeons were shocked to discover that during the five years the hip had been in his body, it had leaked cobalt into it, resulting in metallosis, a build-up of metal debris, that not only destroyed his hip’s nearby muscles, tendons and ligaments, but also invaded his heart and brain.

Can miscommunication lead to medical mistakes?

As in any industry in the United States, communication is critical. Yet, when peoples’ lives are at stake, communication takes on even more importance. When you go to see a medical professional, you may be given a diagnosis, require a surgical procedure, need to have labs taken or need a prescription for medication to treat your condition. Your medical information may be traveling between physicians, surgeons, nurses, medical assistants, pharmacists and other medical professionals. During each transfer, there is room for error, and a simple misinterpretation or miscommunication can lead to an error that could leave you significantly harmed or cause death.

A study in the Journal of Patient Safety found that between 210,000 and 440,000 people die every year in America as a result of a preventable medical mistake. This number has such a wide range because many medical errors go unreported or are covered up in an attempt to not receive repercussion that may follow a medical error. Poor communication may be one of the leading causes of medical errors. Miscommunication in the medical industry may be involved in a number of situations. Some of these include the following:

  •          Surgeon performing a procedure on the wrong patient
  •          Medical assistant calling in a prescription for the wrong medication
  •          Pharmacist overlooking a deadly medication allergy
  •          Physician miscommunicating a patients’ history to a colleague
  •          Physician misdiagnosing a condition