5 Easily Avoidable Medical Malpractice Cases
Published on Feb 23, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.
As a doctor, it’s extremely important to stick to procedural guidelines, follow the rules, and keep your patients’ safety top-of-mind. If you don’t, your patients’ health will suffer, and they could even lose their lives. Doctors who cut corners also run the risk of being sued for malpractice, which can hinder the career you’ve worked so hard for, and damage the reputation of the hospital or clinic where you work.
We recently worked with medical professional insurance provider Coverys to produce a video series on the topic of medical malpractice. The 10 videos in this series are based on real-life cases, and each one shows you just how easy it can be to slip up and jeopardize the safety of the people in your care. Check out the first five medical malpractice videos below, and view the full collection on our YouTube channel.
1. The Orthopedic Surgeon: Sophia’s Ganglion Cyst
Sophia, a Spanish-speaking US resident, goes to the doctor to have a ganglion cyst removed. Thanks to a communication error on the doctor’s end, things don’t work out as planned. Instead of having her ganglion cyst removed, Sophia is treated for carpal tunnel syndrome. She sues the orthopedic surgeon who performed the procedure for medical malpractice.
When taking over a patient’s care, carefully review their medical history, perform a physical exam as appropriate, and always get a medical interpreter if there’s any risk for miscommunication.
2. The Cardiologist: Joseph’s Botched Amiodarone Therapy
Joseph Hoff is treated for ventricular tachycardia, and is prescribed amiodarone by Dr. Daria Baldwin. When Joseph is supposed to start reducing his amiodarone intake, he calls Dr. Baldwin, who mistakes him for another patient, Mr. Hoffman. She encourages him to continue with his current dosage, and he develops interstitial pneumonitis due to amiodarone toxicity. Dr. Baldwin gets sued for medical malpractice.
Review patient medications with them carefully, and make sure chronic medications like amiodarone are carefully monitored.
3. The Emergency Medicine Resident: The Attending’s Wrongful Diagnosis
Dr. Theodore Watkins, an ER resident, is treating a 43-year-old male patient for sudden chest pains. He contacts his attending, Dr. Chapman, who insists the patient has an NSTEMI. Dr. Watkins has his doubts and wants to contact a vascular surgeon, but is afraid to question the attending’s authority. He complies with Dr. Chapman’s aggressive insistence that he treat the patient for an NSTEMI. The patient dies, and Dr. Watkins is sued for medical malpractice.
Move up the chain of command, document conversations about critical decisions, and keep lines of communication open at all times.
4. The Gynecologist: Dr. Sutton’s Uterine Fibroid
Dr. Grace Sutton is a successful psychiatrist who’s trying for a baby and is undergoing fertility treatment. After experiencing mild abdominal pain, she visits Dr. Lottie Velasquez for a gynaecological exam. During the examination, Dr. Velasquez gets caught up in conversation with Dr. Sutton and fails to complete the exam properly. Panicking, she copies the results from a prior exam, and tells Dr. Sutton that the exam went well. A few months pass, and it turns out Dr. Sutton has a large uterine fibroid that means she has to cancel her fertility treatments. Dr. Sutton sues Dr. Velasquez for medical malpractice.
Perform a thorough physical exam, remain professional, document everything clearly and accurately, and never falsify results.
5. The Internist: Zach Hoover’s “Hyperkalemia”
Zach Hoover visits Dr. Tia Pearson after experiencing progressive weakness in his legs. During his patient history, Dr. Pearson notices nothing specific, so she orders a lab test. The results indicate that Zach has hyperkalemia—high potassium levels.
Zach is admitted to the hospital. In a few hours, another doctor, Dr. Carr, orders a second set of lab results, which come back normal. He’s confused, but decides to stop Zach’s medications. Dr. Carr checks in with the lab, and finds they have made a mistake. In fact, according to the lab results, Zach never had hyperkalemia! Because everything looks normal, Zach is sent home. Dr. Carr does not report the error.
That night, another patient in the hospital, Melina Sanchez, has a cardiac arrhythmia. She was being treated for renal failure, and her potassium level was increasing. As it turns out, the lab had accidentally switched Melina and Zach’s blood samples. Melina was the one who had hyperkalemia, not Zach, but he was the one being treated for the condition! Dr. Carr is sued for medical malpractice.
When there’s a medical error, it’s important to notify the hospital risk management and patient safety team so they can understand the error and the cause and prevent it from recurring.
To see more examples of medical malpractice that could have been easily avoided by following proper procedures, check out our playlist on YouTube.------------------------
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