The purpose of our healthcare system is to ensure our safety and promote our well-being. In the vast majority of cases, healthcare in the United States accomplishes these goals—it heals, prevents diseases, and enhances the quality of our lives.
Sometimes, however, the system fails us. Whether it’s due to a missed diagnosis, improper medication dosage, a failure to properly treat a condition, or a surgical error, the consequences of a medical mistake can be catastrophic.
Unfortunately, medical errors are more common than most people realize. Studies suggest that up to 10% of all US deaths are now due to medical errors—making this the third leading cause of death in the United States.
In this blog, we will discuss medical malpractice, the common causes of these cases, and what you should do if you are a victim of medical malpractice in Kansas City.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional fails to provide the “standard of care” and, as a result, causes harm to the patient. To better understand this, let’s break down these two components.
Standard of Care
“Standard of care” is a legal term that refers to the care a trained healthcare provider would provide under the same or similar circumstances. In cases of medical malpractice, we use the standard of care as a benchmark to determine if the provider’s actions were negligent.
When the standard of care is breached, it doesn’t automatically qualify as medical malpractice. The breach in care must directly result in harm to the patient to be medical malpractice.
Harm can encompass a variety of damages, including:
- Physical harm: injuries, complications, or worsened medical conditions
- Emotional distress: stress, anxiety, and trauma associated with medical error
- Pain and suffering: physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Financial harm: financial losses associated with correcting the medical error and/or the loss of wages or earning capacity due to disability or extended recovery periods
- Wrongful death: tragic cases of medical malpractice can lead to loss of life
Medical malpractice cases are extremely complex. Attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice perform in-depth research and investigations to determine if the standard of care was breached and whether or not that caused direct harm to the patient.
Causes of Medical Malpractice
Broadly speaking, three of the most common causes of medical malpractice in Kansas City include:
1. Missed Diagnosis
A missed diagnosis is when a provider fails to diagnose a condition or diagnoses a condition incorrectly. This can happen when a provider:
- Misinterprets test results
- Does not properly take medical history into account
- Fails to recognize or properly evaluate symptoms
- Fails to initiate necessary testing or referrals promptly
If a competent provider in the same specialty would have correctly diagnosed the patient, it could be considered medical malpractice.
A missed diagnosis can lead to a number of patient harms, including:
- Delayed treatment
- Serious bodily injury
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Physical harm
- Progression of the illness
- Increased expenses
- Worsened health outcomes
- Reduced chance of recovery
- Emotional distress
2. Delay in Treatment
A delay in treatment is when a provider does not offer timely medical care for a known condition. This can happen when a provider:
- Fails to recognize the urgency of a situation (ex: a patient comes to the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack, but the provider doesn’t prioritize their care)
- Does not order diagnostic tests promptly or delays interpreting the results
- Does not refer a patient to a specialist or other medical professional when needed
- Fails to communicate with other members of the treatment team
Consequences of treatment delays can result in several harms for the patient, including:
- Worsened health outcomes
- Increased complications
- Prolonged recovery
- Emotional distress
3. Failure to Properly Treat
If a provider does not properly administer treatment that falls within the accepted standard of care, it may be considered medical malpractice. This can happen if a provider:
- Prescribes the wrong medication
- Performs a procedure incorrectly or makes an error during the procedure
- Uses an outdated treatment
- Fails to provide proper follow-up care
- Overlooks warning signs and concerning symptoms
When a provider fails to properly treat a patient, harmful results can include:
- Disease progression
- Increased pain and suffering
- Medical complications
- Increased medical expenses
- Permanent disabilities or impairments
- Psychological consequences
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Next, we will discuss more specific examples of medical malpractice in Kansas City.
The birth of a child should be a joyous and momentous occasion. Sadly, this is not always the case. Every hour in the United States, there are about 3 babies born with birth injuries. This comes out to about 30,000 babies that suffer from birth trauma every year.
Birth injuries can result from a number of factors, but in cases of medical malpractice, they often result from failing to properly address signs of fetal distress during labor. This distress is often due to inadequate oxygen supply, which, over time, can cause tissue damage.
In the context of birth trauma, tissue damage typically will start at the area with the highest oxygen demand: the brain.
Common Birth Injuries
Birth trauma, like any injury, can range in severity. While sometimes birth injuries are mild, other times they can be permanently disabling or even take the life of the child. Some of the most common injuries children can sustain from birth trauma include:
- Brain injuries
- Cerebral palsy
- Brachial plexus injury and shoulder dystocia
- Meconium aspiration syndrome
- Spina bifida
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Making a proper diagnosis is one of the most important responsibilities of medical professionals. Because the diagnosis determines the entire course of treatment, when a diagnosis is missed or delayed, it can result in serious consequences for the patient’s health.
Common misdiagnoses in cases of medical malpractice can include:
Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial for cancer patients. When cancer is misdiagnosed or diagnosed at a more advanced stage than it should have been, it can lead to many harms, including:
- A delay in starting treatment (which can allow the cancer to spread and become worse)
- Fewer treatment options as the cancer progresses
- Emotional and psychological distress
- Worsened health and prognosis
- Inability to treat the cancer
Treatments for heart conditions are most effective when administered early. For example, misdiagnosing heart attacks as less severe conditions or failing to recognize symptoms of heart disease can lead to life-threatening consequences due to:
- Inadequate or delayed cardiac care
- Worsened heart damage
- Further heart complications (including arrhythmias, heart failure, or blood clots)
- Emotional distress and suffering
For any patient, the choice to undergo surgery is a big decision. It requires putting your full trust in medical professionals to perform their job well. Unfortunately, surgical errors can happen both inside and outside of the operating room, causing significant harm to patients. These errors can include:
- Operating on the wrong body part
- Administering too much or too little anesthesia
- Inadequate infection control practices
- Mistakes during the operation
- Failure to address complications and provide necessary medications after surgery
Interpreting test results is a critical aspect of medical diagnosis and treatment planning. Misinterpreting radiology imaging (including X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, and mammograms) can lead to detrimental effects. Other radiology errors can include:
- Failing to identify tumors, fractures, or other abnormalities
- Choosing the wrong imaging modality, leading to a missed diagnosis
- Breakdown in communication between the radiologist and referring physician
What to Do After Medical Malpractice
If you are a victim of medical malpractice in Kansas City, the most important thing you can do is find a qualified medical malpractice lawyer who can help. An attorney with experience in this area will figure out what happened and why through:
- Evidence gathering
- Reviewing medical records
- Interviewing witnesses
- Consulting with medical experts
Medical malpractice cases are some of the most difficult cases to pursue. Finding the right medical malpractice attorney for your case is crucial.
Contact Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader for Medical Malpractice in Kansas City
If you or a loved one was injured due to the mistakes of a healthcare professional, it’s important to know your rights. Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader is the trusted name for personal injury attorneys in Kansas City. We deliver answers, accountability, and justice for victims of medical malpractice.
When we represent a client or a family after medical malpractice, we devote the time, resources, and experience for the best possible result. Our attorneys are dedicated to investigating cases the right way—by answering every question and methodically working through each case.
Navigating the aftermath of medical malpractice can be challenging. An attorney can give you the support, tools, and resources you need to help you recover. To get in contact with an attorney today, use our virtual case tool or contact our office at (913) 266-2300 to speak with one of our team members.
The above is not intended to be legal advice. Each individual case is different and must be analyzed on its own set of facts and circumstances. If you believe you may have a case, it is critically important that you timely contact a lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.