Death from Mistakes in Diagnosis, Surgery or Treatment

A medical examiner can determine cause of death, but finding out who is to blame can often be harder to determine.

Death Resulting from Misdiagnoses

The first step in treating cancer is to get a correct diagnosis. Without a correct diagnosis, cancer can be left untreated and your chances of success lessen as time passes. An incorrect diagnosis can be the result of a number of factors. One study, as reported by webMD reports:

"The rate of diagnostic error is as high as 15%, Eta S. Berner, EdD, and Mark L. Graber, MD, write in a special edition of The American Journal of Medicine dedicated to understanding and addressing diagnostic errors.

Physician overconfidence and a lack of feedback following a diagnosis are two important contributors to the problem, they note."

In reality, a pathologist is the only kind of doctor who can make the actual diagnosis of cancer. However, a pathologist often relies on others to help make that diagnosis óthe nurses or other doctors taking samples, the equipment and lab where at the facility, and the overall support system that enables pathologists to do their job correctly. When one or all of these supporting factors fail to work properly, a misdiagnosis may result.

Death Resulting from Surgical Error

Surgeons are highly trained specialists who are responsible for the health and extended lives of many Americans. With so much responsibility comes trust. And, when surgeons neglect their duties they put the public at risk.

Death from a surgical error can result from a number of circumstances, such as foreign instruments left in the body, scalpel slips, performing the wrong surgery, or inadequate post-surgical care. A surgical error is ultimately a result of negligence.

Before going under the knife, a surgeon is responsible for reviewing your medical records to ensure a safe procedure. Incorrect or lack of adequate records can cause the surgeon to operate on the wrong body part or perform the wrong operation. Clerical errors that lead to ones death is an act of negligence.

While undergoing surgery, the surgeon is responsible for seeing that hospital procedure is followed. Death can result when instruments such as scissors, scalpel, or other objects are left behind.

The surgeon is also responsible for being in top working condition when performing surgery. Drinking, lack of sleep, stress, and other factors may affect a surgeon's performance, and scalpel slips can result in organ failure, internal bleeding, loss of function, even death.

Unnecessary infection resulting in a wound that will not heal, extensive medical treatment, illness, or even amputation is easily preventable by proper post surgical care. Neglecting to provide treatment and follow up care after surgery can also result in death.

Death Resulting from Treatment

According to Life Extension Magazine, over 2.2 million patients experience adverse drug reactions each year and over 100,000 die from these reactions.

A recent (4/08) recall of the drug Heparin (manufactured by Baxter) is blamed for 81 deaths and many people suffered symptoms of drug contamination, such as extremely low blood pressure, swelling of the skin and mucus membranes, shortness of breath, and abdominal pain.

FDA officials say the contaminated Heparin came from factories in China that manufacture the drug for Baxter International. The FDA also claims contaminated Heparin was also found in 10 other countries.
Baxter has a responsibility to make sure that legitimate product is being sold and not putting the public at risk. Lack of testing and delayed action by Baxter makes them liable for the Heparin deaths.
The Heparin recall is only a sample of drug treatments that have resulted in death. Death can also result from treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, and unnecessary medical procedures, among others. In many cases, doctors, nurses, or hospitals can be held liable for negligent treatment resulting in the death of a patient.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lauren Nikulicz
For more than 25 years, the lawyers at Caputo Cox & Schwarzwaelder have had extensive experience in personal injury and death cases. At present, the five lawyers in the firm have combined trial experience of more than 100 years.

The firm exclusively represents individual citizens who are victims of serious or catastrophic injury and wrongful death. Although the firmís principal focus in recent years has been medical malpractice, we are equipped, prepared, and have had extensive trial experience with injuries and deaths from motor vehicle accidents, defective products, construction and industrial site work incidents and many other types of incidents.

Copyright Law Office of John A. Caputo
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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