It’s believed that emergency room errors happen in 5% to 10% of all emergency room visits in the United States.
With Americans making more than 140 million trips to emergency annually, that adds up to more than 10 million emergency room errors annually. Considering that most patients who go to an ER do so because of an already weakened state due to illness or injury, emergency room errors can put these patients at an even greater risk of severe injury or death.
Emergency room visits are often high-stress, complex situations where every second counts for a patient in need of medical help. Emergency room doctors are often required to make quick decisions. And sometimes, instead of helping the patient, ER doctors make the wrong decision resulting in a worsening of a patient’s condition, or a patient may die because of an emergency room error.
Emergency room medical malpractice can occur in various ways. Let’s look at the seven most common emergency room errors and how you can safeguard your next visit to an ER.
First Responder Negligence
Paramedics, police, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are often the first people to respond to a 911 call or attend the scene of an accident. What they do, or don't do, during those early minutes with a patient can help save lives, but it also has the potential to cause harm. For example, if your first responder drives the ambulance recklessly, resulting in injury, you might have experienced medical malpractice.
Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis
If your ER doctor fails to make an accurate diagnosis of your condition during a visit to the emergency room, it can delay proper treatment. If they provide an incorrect diagnosis because they didn't recognize your symptoms, they could potentially treat you for the wrong condition, or they might not treat your condition at all.
Mistakes Prescribing Medication
If a healthcare provider makes a mistake when prescribing medication for your condition or injury, you could experience dangerous side effects or allergic reactions. Doctors who do not recognize the early signs of addiction could mistakenly lead a patient further toward addiction by prescribing or over-prescribing opioids.
A pharmacist could mistakenly label the wrong medication, meaning a patient receives the wrong dose or incorrect medication. Nurses or other healthcare providers could also make a mistake with medication dosage, or a doctor could forget to write the correct dosage on your chart.
Surgical errors such as leaving a foreign object in a patient, causing damage to internal organs or tissues, or operating on the wrong body part are just some of the surgical errors that can happen during time spent in the ER.
Failure to Appropriately Respond
Emergency room situations often require quick thinking and immediate medical care for the patient to survive. If an ER doctor fails to provide the appropriate, necessary care a patient requires, or if they provide the wrong treatment or care for a patient, it can result in injury, damages, or potentially even death.
Discharged Too Early
Hospitals that discharge a patient before they can be without medical supervision are another example of emergency room errors that can have devastating results. In situations like these, a patient could find their condition worsened after leaving the hospital and later returning to the emergency room for additional treatment and medical care.
In severe situations, the early discharge could lead to a patient's death if the patient required emergency room support and care to survive.
Contaminated Blood/ Wrong Blood Type
Getting the right blood during a medical procedure or following an accident can be critical to a patient's survival. If the blood a patient receives is contaminated with diseases such as hepatitis or HIV, or if the patient receives the wrong blood type, it can result in injury, illness, or even death.
While medical facilities have procedures in place to ensure this doesn't happen, negligence, other mistakes, or errors can result in a patient receiving the wrong blood type or blood products contaminated by disease.
How To Protect Yourself Against Emergency Room Errors
Emergency medical care can save lives, but emergency rooms can also be challenging for patients in need of lifesaving medical care. By keeping aware of the seven most common emergency room errors listed above, you can help to protect yourself.
Below are additional steps you can take to reduce your risk of experiencing errors or mistakes during your trip to the ER:
- If you have an underlying medical condition, call your regular health care provider from the ER and ask them to provide detailed information about your condition.
- If you have a prolonged, ongoing condition, consider keeping a binder or file containing copies of recent test results or notes from recent medical visits to take with you in the event of an emergency.
- Ask your doctors and other health care providers for their names and whether they are staff at the hospital. This can be especially important if your emergency room is part of a teaching hospital where you could be treated by a resident or intern.
- Make sure you understand what condition they are treating you for, and if it isn't clear, ask them to provide something in writing that you can take with you or review.
- If they prescribe tests, CT scans, X-Rays, etc., ask for the results.
- Before you leave the ER, ask to have a copy of your medical care records for your time at the hospital sent to your regular physician for their review.
If you have experienced injury or illness you believe resulted from an emergency room error, reach out to the medical malpractice specialists at Grover Lewis Johnson.
Our Medical Malpractice Team has over 25 years of experience helping clients determine the best course of action for their situation.
Call us today for a no-obligation, free consultation. We genuinely care about our clients. We can't change what happened to you, but we can help you get the proper compensation you deserve.