Patient Safety / Medical Malpractice
Doctors and nurses have an immense responsibility. Patients, by placing their trust in them, often are literally placing their lives in those professionals' hands. Too many times, that trust proves to be misplaced, and that patient suffers substantial harm because of a provider's errors.
Medical malpractice occurs more frequently than most of us would like to imagine. Research from Johns Hopkins found that more than 250,000 people die annually as a result of some form of medical error. The Journal of Patient Safety put the number at more than 400,000 each year. Medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of death in this country, trailing only cancer and heart disease.
There are generally two different types of medical malpractice. The first is when a physician commits an act that is wrong. Examples of this type of case include;
- a surgeon operating on the wrong limb or body part;
- a surgeon leaving a surgical instrument inside the patient after an operation;
- a physician prescribing the wrong medication or incorrect dosage;
- administering a drug other than the one prescribed.
The other type of medical malpractice case occurs when a physician fails to do something that the appropriate standard of care requires. These are by far the more difficult of the two types of cases to prove. Examples of this type of case include;
- a physician either delays or fails to diagnose a condition;
- a physician does not properly treat a condition of a patient;
- the improper use of prescription drugs.
Oregon law imposes a relatively strict deadline for pursuing a medical malpractice claim. The relevant statute of limitations says that you only have two years from the date that you discovered the error (or reasonably should have discovered the error.) Note that, sometimes, this means you have two years from the date the error occurred but, other times, you may have longer. For example, say your doctor diagnosed you with breast cancer and you underwent a double mastectomy. After the procedure, it was discovered that your case did not actually require surgical intervention. You would, in that scenario, have two years from the date you discovered the error, not two years from the date of the original mistake.
In Oregon, as is true in all other states, medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex and difficult types of cases for a plaintiff to win. There are several reasons for this.
- These cases are extremely expensive to take to trial. (Testimony from a medical expert (or experts) is necessary in any successful medical malpractice case. Expert witness fees alone can easily exceed $50,000 or more.)
- Jurors generally think highly of doctors and do not want to find them at fault. (A Gallup survey showed that people consider the two most honest, ethical, and trustworthy professions to be nurses and doctors, in that order. People naturally gravitate toward believing in (and therefore believing) medical professionals.)
- Malpractice insurance companies will fight these claims to the end. (These companies have billions of dollars and they will not hesitate to spend them on fighting your case. Legal case books contain numerous instances where a plaintiff won a medical malpractice lawsuit at trial and the defendants kept the matter tied up in appeals for a decade or more.)
- Depending on the type of malpractice, it can be difficult to prove. (Many cases involve highly technical and complicated details of medical science. These things are often difficult for laypeople to comprehend and, remember, your jury is probably predisposed to believe your doctor.)
That is not to say you should give up on pursuing a medical malpractice case; rather, it is to highlight how important it is to get frank, honest, and knowledgeable advice from an experienced legal professional before making a decision.
Matthew D. Kaplan is a skilled Oregon medical malpractice injury attorney with the knowledge and the hands-on experience to help you assess your case accurately. Call us today or contact us online for your free attorney consultation.
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