Difference Between Medical Errors and Medical Negligence

Medical treatment can sometimes result in adverse consequences. These consequences are frequently the result of one kind of medical error or another. A recent study done at John Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 251,454 deaths per year. That’s more than the number of people who die in auto accidents each year across the nation.

Many of these errors are the result of negligence on the part of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who have a legal and professional duty to provide their patients with an acceptable standard of medical care. Acts of negligence on the part of a healthcare professional can lead to severe injuries or even the death of the patient and give rise to a medical malpractice claim.

But not all medical errors are caused by negligence, and such they are not all incidents of medical malpractice. In fact, it is estimated that only 37% of adverse medical consequences are due to medical malpractice. Read further to learn the difference between medical errors and medical negligence that can give rise to a medical malpractice claim.

What is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence occurs when a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional fails to provide a patient with an acceptable standard of care. This encompasses many different situations, for example:

  • Surgeons and anesthesiologists may be negligent in mistakenly clearing a patient for surgery; by performing procedures that the patient did not consent to; or by making mistakes during the procedure that could have been prevented.
  • Radiologists and oncologists may be negligent when they fail to timely diagnose cancer.
  • Hospital nurses and nursing home staff may be negligent when they fail to communicate important information about a patient to the attending physician; when they fail to record important data in the patient’s medical chart; or when they fail to properly position a bedridden patient in order to avoid bedsores and ulcers.
  • Primary care physicians may be negligent when they prescribe the wrong medication for a patient, or by failing to consult with a medical specialist regarding a patient’s condition.
  • Finally, some of the most regrettable medical malpractice cases involve birth injuries. This is when infants are permanently disabled, disfigured or die because of mistakes made by the obstetrician and or the labor and delivery team.

What Are Medical Errors?

Medical errors are adverse consequences that occur during the course of medical treatment but are not the result of negligence on the part of a doctor nurse or healthcare professional. In many cases, these errors were unforeseen, unavoidable and due to inherent risks that could not have been prevented. In other words, the doctor, nurse or healthcare professional did not fail to provide the patient with an acceptable standard of care.

An example of a medical error would be a situation in which a patient who has developed an infection is prescribed a common antibiotic to which he or she is allergic. Because of this, the patient might, for example, suffer other medical complications. But unless there was something in the patient’s chart or medical history to suggest to the treating physician that the patient was allergic to this medication, the act would not be considered negligent.

Despite the adverse consequences, the physician acted like any other reasonable physician would have acted under the same circumstances. On the other hand, if the physician knew that there was a risk of the patient having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic and prescribed it anyway without considering more suitable alternatives, a case could be made for medical negligence.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or loved one has been wronged in this way, you have the right to hold the liable medical profession accountable. Furthermore, you have a right to be compensated for your financial losses, as well as, your mental anguish and physical pain and suffering. Call an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can assess and investigate your case today.

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