The concept of medical malpractice negligence is very broad and encompasses virtually every kind of mistake that can be made by a medical professional. The most common cases brought against doctors are:
- Improper diagnosis
- Failure to diagnose
- Medication errors
- Surgical errors such as a slip of the knife severing a nerve during an operation
- Medical instruments, sponges, needles or other foreign objects dropped inside a patient and left there after surgery
- Errors in prenatal diagnostic testing
- Failure to advise of diagnosis
- Lack of informed consent
- Abandonment (failure to attend to a patient)
- Improperly prescribing a drug
- Failing to inform the patient of available treatments
- Continuing a treatment that has been shown to be ineffective
- Below standard treatment or incorrectly performed treatment
A doctor has a duty to patients to use care and diligence to diagnose illness so that the proper treatment can be recommended. In order to properly diagnose a condition, a doctor should ask about a patient's medical history as well as his or her family's medical history. The doctor also should ask for a detailed description of current symptoms and should perform a thorough examination that includes necessary diagnostic tests.
Example: After hurting your wrist you go to your family doctor, but she concludes it is just a sprain and doesn't request an X-ray, which would have revealed a fracture. The fracture goes undetected and, as a result, a permanent and debilitating injury to your wrist results. The doctor may be negligent for failing to order an X-ray, or possibly for not referring you to an orthopedist.
Doctors also have a duty to disclose information pertaining to the treatment you will receive. If your condition is such that it is beyond the scope of practice of the examining doctor, or beyond the doctor's expertise, he or she must refer you to a specialist. If your doctor fails to follow these basic principles, and injury is caused as a result, you may have a case for a malpractice claim. Medical malpractice can occur at any point during the course of diagnosis and treatment. For example, the wrong chart could be placed at your hospital bedside, resulting in you being given medication that you are allergic to which causes serious harm or even death.