The life-threatening nature of emergency room visits can mask the act that injuries or death may have been caused by medical malpractice in the emergency room. In fact, emergency room errors are so common that many patients and their loved ones do not even realize that mistakes in the emergency room constitute medical malpractice rather than standard procedure.
Emergency rooms are a rushed, high-stress atmosphere for doctors and staff. Some patients cannot be saved. However, hospitals have a duty to minimize the risks, eliminate causes of errors, maintain a sanitary environment, and
Hospital negligence that leads to emergency room errors includes:
- Illegal or unethical policies leading to patient dumping, refusal to treat, incomplete, or delayed treatment
- Inadequate record keeping procedures
- Inadequate patient tracking procedures
- Inadequate medication administration procedures
- Poor screening and hiring practices
- Too few doctors or staff members on duty
- Inadequate training
- Unsanitary conditions
- Inadequate facilities and equipment
Common Emergency Room Errors
Even under the best conditions some emergency room patients will not survive the ordeal. However, many patients die or suffer avoidable harm due to errors such as:
- Failure to fully evaluate
- Failure to monitor
- Failure to fully treat
- Delayed treatment
- Refusal to treat
- Failure to diagnose
- Delayed diagnosis
- Medication errors – inappropriate medication, wrong dose, wrong patient
- Surgical errors
- Laboratory errors
- Nosocomial infection
- Contaminated blood transfusions
Diagnostic Errors and Delayed Treatment
Failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis of health events such as heart attack, stroke, or brain injury can result in extensive unnecessary harm or death. Patients may be sent home untreated or may not receive treatment until irreversible damage occurs that could have been stopped in its tracks.
For instance, stroke patients have a chance of recovery and a good outcome if treated within the first few hours after symptoms appear. As time passes the most effective drugs are no longer useful, damage to the brain continues to spread, and recovery become less and less likely. Misdiagnosed heart attack victims are often sent home untreated only to suffer a more severe, and often fatal, heart attack within a few hours or a few days.
These types of injury can be the result of failure to fully evaluate, delayed treatment, or misdiagnosis.