Medical negligence in the United States has risen to a shocking rate. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that medical negligence currently ranks as the third highest cause of death in the country. Only heart disease and cancer rank higher. With such a high risk for something that is clearly preventable, Pennsylvanians should be aware of the prevalence of medical malpractice and ways to protect themselves.
To begin with, what is medical malpractice? In a legal definition, medical malpractice happens when a healthcare practitioner, which includes doctors, nurses or even a hospital, strays from treating a patient with “standard care.” How does one establish if a patient was a victim of medical malpractice? Not every unfortunate outcome is negligence. However, when a medical practitioner contributed to the worsened condition or the death of the patient, then it may be considered negligence.
However, there are ways for patients to reduce their risk of suffering medical malpractice. First, when discussing their medical condition with a doctor, patients should receive complete answers, including the treatments and procedures the doctor recommends. When in doubt, a patient would be wise to seek a second opinion. Finally, patients should research their medical condition, never be afraid to advocate for their own wellbeing and be accompanied by a family member or trusted friend during critical medical appointments.
Victims, or the family of someone who died due to the medical error, may file a legal action if they have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice. Consultation with a legal professional may help in the thorough assessment of the situation. This includes a review of the medical records, witness testimonies and other important details. Bear in mind that Pennsylvania has a two-year statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice cases. This means that a complaint should be filed within two years of the time the medical error occurred.
Source: Forbes, “10 Things You Want to Know About Medical Malpractice,” Demetrius Cheeks, May 16, 2013