What is Medical Malpractice to a Myrtle Beach Resident?
Doctors, nurses, surgeons, nurse anesthetists, lab technicians, pharmacists, hospitals and other health care providers have a legal duty to provide treatment that meets a recognized standard of care. If the results of the treatment are questioned, the legal approach is to ask whether another medical care provider in the same situation could reasonably be expected to have made the same decision or come to the same conclusion.
A successful medical malpractice claim in South Carolina would demonstrate that a patient was harmed because of a preventable medical error or failure to act.
The facts of the case would establish that:
- There was a relationship between the medical professional and the patient, giving rise to a duty of care to the patient;
- The medical professional breached the duty of care by a negligent act or failure to act; and
- The patient was injured as a result of the medical professional’s breach of the duty of care.
These standards apply to all health care or medical service providers. They also apply to health care institutions and/or their corporate owners if it can be shown that the organization’s policies and procedures contributed to a patient’s injuries.
A South Carolina medical malpractice claim might seek to hold accountable one or more:
- Oral surgeons
- Nurses (RNs, LPNs, LVNs, etc.)
- Lab technicians
- Hospitals / medical centers, including emergency rooms
- Medical practices
- Assisted living facilities (nursing homes, convalescent homes)
- Rehabilitation centers.
Common Medical Errors Leading to Malpractice Cases
Anything can happen in an emergency room, surgical ward, delivery room, hospital room, or doctor’s office.
As medical malpractice attorneys in Myrtle Beach, we have seen the common types of preventable medical errors that warrant legal action. They include:
- Surgical errors. Mistakes during surgery are among the most common medical errors. Some of the more disturbing and frequent surgical errors are leaving sponges or surgical tools inside a patient or operating on the wrong body part. In other cases, surgical teams use unsanitary tools (potentially leading to infection), a surgeon punctures an organ adjacent to the intended surgery site, or “post-op” doctors and nurses fail to diagnose and treat internal bleeding or other complications.
- Birth injuries. Some birth defects that develop during pregnancy cannot be prevented. Birth injuries are usually caused by trauma during delivery and range from minor injuries a baby can recover from to permanent medical conditions that cause disabilities and require ongoing medical care. If the oxygen supply to a baby’s brain is reduced during delivery, it can cause brain damage and lead to conditions such as cerebral palsy. A baby who assumes an unnatural position in the birth canal may be physically injured if the doctor applies too much force to assist in the delivery. Surgical errors during or after a Cesarean section (C-section) may injure the mother or child.
- Emergency room errors. A hospital emergency room can become inundated with patients. Emergency room doctors and nurses may have to make split-second decisions with patients’ lives depending on quick action. Errors tend to occur when emergency rooms are understaffed and ER doctors and nurses are hurrying to treat too many patients. Errors in the ER may take the form of failure to order proper tests, failure to communicate test results, miscommunication errors or handoff errors, in which treatment, medication or lab work needs are not communicated because a patient is handed off to another doctor or nurse.
- Failure to diagnose and treat in a timely manner. Many conditions such as certain types of cancer require prompt diagnosis and early detection to treat the disease while it is most manageable. A doctor or nurse may fail to obtain a proper medical history, fail to order proper diagnostic tests, misinterpret tests results or fail to communicate test results, leading to a delayed diagnosis. Failure to diagnose is a common emergency room error. It also may occur in primary care practices and clinics due to inadequate training, experience and/or supervision.
- Medication errors. Medication administered in the wrong dosage or at improper intervals can cause serious harm. Illegibly written prescriptions, unclear abbreviations and miscommunication among medical professionals can lead to medication errors. Failure to obtain a complete medical history that includes current medications can lead to a harmful drug interaction.
- Medical equipment failure. Medical care relies on various tools and equipment for diagnosis, imaging, surgery, medication delivery, and assisting recovering and disabled patients. If a patient is injured or dies due to a medical equipment failure or malfunction, a case might center on whether staff members had received proper training to operate the equipment, whether the equipment was properly serviced and what the medical provider knew about the equipment’s condition.
Each example above represents a medical error that is preventable. In many cases, medical errors are due in part to an institution’s policies and procedures, whether they are established or implied through improper work practices that have been tolerated. In such cases, the hospital, medical center, birthing center or ambulatory surgery center may be held accountable through a medical malpractice claim.