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The difference between negligence and an adverse event, part 1

Consider the following scenario: a person is admitted to the hospital. Gender is not important but for simplicity let's say it's a female and, for the sake of argument, let's say this person is in her thirties and in (prior to her admittance) good health. After some testing, the doctors conclude the patient has contracted an infection that can be treated with antibiotics. The patient is lucid and conscious and able to answer questions about her health history at the time the decision is made.

Unfortunately for the patient, she's allergic to the antibiotic chosen. While the reaction is brought under control, it has the unfortunate side effect of temporarily shutting down her kidneys. Needless to say, her medical expenses, even with insurance, go through the roof. She's forced to take extended time off from work and she's understandably gun shy about ever going near a hospital or antibiotics again in her lifetime.

Medical professionals take health histories in order to prevent these types of events from occurring. A health history includes questions about allergies to both environmental substances and medicines. The idea is that this helps health care professionals avoid prescribing a drug to which a patient either has a known allergy or to which a patient could have an allergic reaction (e.g. some people with egg allergies cannot receive the flu vaccine because it's grown in chicken eggs). The doctor prescribing the antibiotics needed to check both the patient's chart and double check with her in person in order to avoid prescribing a drug to which she was allergic.

Let's assume the doctor actually did both. Furthermore, let's assume there was nothing in either the chart or the patient's oral answers to indicate that she would have an allergic reaction to the chosen antibiotic. The patient's allergic reaction and subsequent kidney shutdown would then be considered adverse events. An adverse event is where an action, such as prescribing a drug, has negative consequences. However, there was no way for the medical professional to believe that the event would occur.

This particular situation would not be considered medical malpractice as the doctor was not negligent. However, negligence happens in hospitals all the time. If it happens to you, you may want to consider speaking with a medical malpractice attorney.

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