Emergency room care is a matter of life and death. People go to the hospital for serious medical issues, and errors in the ER can have life-altering consequences. And, because of the pace at which emergency room physicians and nurses must work, the chance of mistakes happening rises exponentially. It’s estimated that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, and many of those mistakes happen in the ER.
Some of the most common examples of ER malpractice include:
- Failure to admit: Patients may be turned away from the ER for many reasons, including proof of insurance or other ability to pay. During triage, their conditions may not be deemed serious enough to warrant treatment in the ER, so they are sent away. Whatever the reason, denying ER care can have devastating consequences, including the death of the patient who was turned away.
- Misdiagnosis: A doctor with too many patients to treat and too little time may miss the early signs of a heart attack, stroke, or other life-threatening condition. Or the physician may discount the patient’s complaints. If the patient is discharged or not treated immediately for that condition, he or she may suffer irreparable harm.
- Medication errors: Patients often arrive in the ER unconscious or unable to communicate and relay their medication history. Hospital records may have gaps. As a result, a doctor may order a medication that can have adverse interactions with what the patient is already taking, or trigger an allergic reaction. In a fast-paced ER, it’s also possible for errors in dosing to happen or even giving the wrong medication entirely.
- Failure to obtain informed consent: It is the law that a doctor must obtain informed consent from a patient or someone responsible for their care before performing any procedure, including treatment that might be dangerous or have serious complications. In the rush of an ER room, and with a patient clinging to life, this dialogue does not always happen. Not obtaining the requisite consent is considered battery and may result in legal action against the doctor and hospital.
- Treatment delays: Emergency rooms are frequently overwhelmed, leading to excessive wait times. Patients may deteriorate significantly during a lengthy treatment delay, resulting in a more serious threat to their health.
- Failure to seek a consult: ER doctors frequently call on other specialists in complicated cases to discuss treatment options or weigh alternative diagnoses. An ER doctor who fails to consult a specialist or other team member risks liability if the care he or she provides is negligent.
- General physician and nursing errors: Medical errors of all types happen frequently, and the ER is no exception. While ER care is prone to certain types of negligence, any mistake made by a doctor or nurse can have devastating consequences.
The ER should be a place of attention to detail and careful management of a patient’s care. When that doesn’t happen, people can lose their lives. If you or a loved one have been harmed due to an emergency room error, please contact us and a member of our Medical Malpractice Litigation Group will discuss your situation with you.