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Common Medical Errors in the Emergency Room

6 Common Emergency Room Medical Errors

It may surprise you to learn that the third leading cause of death in the United States is not a common disease, but in fact, it is medical errors. This is unusually high compared to other developed countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. If you must visit an emergency department because of a serious accident or sudden illness, it can be helpful to know what kind of errors are common as you advocate for yourself or for a loved one in this setting.

1. Delays and Being Turned Away

Emergency rooms are busy, high-stress places, so medical professionals are constantly having to triage and determine which patients to see next. Unfortunately, on occasion, when the facility is very busy, a person might not be seen in time, leading to serious or even fatal consequences. For example, if a person speaks a language that is not commonly spoken in the area and cannot adequately describe their symptoms to emergency department staff, this could delay their treatment. A rarer situation is one in which a patient is turned away entirely because the emergency room is too busy or for other reasons, which can also have catastrophic consequences.

2. Discharged Too Early

In a related error, the patient gets treated but should be kept longer for continued treatment or observation and is instead let go. A person might also start feeling better, be allowed to leave and then have their condition worsen.

3. Medication Errors

The often chaotic setting of an emergency room can mean that information is not always conveyed as methodically or accurately as it should be. The result could be giving a patient the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of medication. The patient might therefore not receive the treatment they need or could even be given something that adversely affects their health.

4. Procedure-related Errors

Medical professionals might perform a procedure incorrectly. In some cases, the consequences could be minor, with less-than-optimal but not seriously harmful results. In others, they could be severe. For example, a doctor might make a mistake during surgery or even perform the wrong kind of surgery. An Allentown personal injury attorney may be able to help you determine whether an error in procedure in your treatment or a loved one's treatment might be an event that you could take legal action over.

5. Misread Imaging Tests

If a medical professional misreads an imaging test, they might think that the patient's condition is less serious than it is or that it is another condition entirely. As with medication errors, this could result in treatment that is not harmful in itself but that does nothing to address the actual condition. It could also result in treatment that causes further illness or injury.

6. Misdiagnosis

In addition to making a misdiagnosis because of a misread imaging test, doctors or other medical professionals might misdiagnose a person's condition in other ways as well. For example, while a number of conditions might have symptoms that mimic a heart attack, including anxiety and heartburn, a doctor might also misdiagnose a heart attack as one of these much less dangerous conditions. A person who is misdiagnosed could receive the wrong treatment or might be sent home with no treatment at all. The legal system recognizes that in the course of diagnosis and treatment a medical professional might need to go through a process of elimination in which the cause of an injury or illness is not immediately clear. However, a court will look at whether a person received a reasonable standard of care in relation to how most medical professionals would have handled the case. Medical malpractice can be devastating, leading to unnecessary suffering and additional medical costs. If you believe that you or a loved one have suffered because of medical malpractice, an Allentown personal injury attorney may be able to assist you. Contact Metzger & Kleiner at 215-567-6616 in Philadelphia or 610-435-7400 in Allentown to make an appointment to discuss your situation.

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