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duty of care

The Seven deadly types of medical negligence and the impact they have on patients.

This article examines real world examples of real world medical treatment gone really wrong. 

It is designed to assist victims of medical negligence focus their complaints so that they can be resolved faster. 

When you know what went wrong, you can start to get it fixed. 

Like we explained in our last article, to claim against something you need to tick off 3 key criteria:

  1. 1
    A breach of duty of care,
  2. 2
    That the breach caused the adverse outcome, and 
  3. 3
    The patient experienced damages.

And the first criteria, the first hurdle, can be one of the hardest to overcome. 

At least in medical negligence.

Duty of care is an obligation to avoid placing a person in the path of danger.

See, a common example of duty of care is driving a car. Everyone has a duty to drive carefully, so they do not injure other road users or pedestrians.

The question with medical negligence, though, is just how much care are they required to exercise?

For a road user, it’s very easy.

The rules of ‘care’ are written down – usually spelled out in the road rules.

But in medical negligence, there are no such clearly defined rules. This means the line between negligence and 'it's not my responsibility' becomes blurry.

In situations where there are no strict outlines, like medical services, the law simply outlines that a practitioner must take 'reasonable' care to ensure patient safety. 

This can come in the form of warning a patient of dangers. Informing them of test results. Performing operations to a high standard, etc.

But how must their warnings be given? How timely must their results be communicated? What operating procedures must be followed?

Unfortunately there’s no precise answer.

The argument will always revolve around whether the steps taken by the treatment provider qualify as ‘reasonable’.

This can be hard to determine by your average person.  As lawyers we tend to categorise medical mistreatment into seven main categories.

Let's call them the categories of 'unreasonable care'.

By going through all of the categories, it helps clients identify the main breach, and perhaps even a number of secondary breaches.

This is critically important, as these 'secondary' breaches often highlight the lack of system competence, as well as the lack of an individuals competence.

So, what are these seven categories?

The 7 main ways the system can let you down...

  1. 1
    Medical Misdiagnosis;
  2. 2
    Medical Surgical Negligence;
  3. 3
    Cosmetic Surgical Negligence;
  4. 4
    Prescription and Medication Negligence;
  5. 5
    Pregnancy and Birthcare Negligence;
  6. 6
    Failure To Warn of Risks;
  7. 7
    Failure To Follow Up.

Just what they are and how they can affect someone are outlined below.

And, if you want to take it one step further, you can find out if you've been a victim of one of these by asking yourself the questions under each section as you go. 

To make it easier, we've divided each of these deadly types of negligence into sections:

  1. 1
    What the type of negligence is; 
  2. 2
    What the common impacts are; 
  3. 3
    An example;
  4. 4
    A checklist for you to assess your own situation. 

Are you a victim of the seven deadly types of negligence?

Speak to a lawyer for free to find out.


1.0 Medical Misdiagnosis

medical misdiagnosis

What is it?

Medical misdiagnosis is one of the main ways the medical system fails its patients. It is generally separated into four types:
  • Misdiagnosis: where a patient has been incorrectly diagnosed with another condition,
  • Missed diagnosis: where the condition has gone completely undiagnosed all together.
  • Delayed diagnosis: where a medical professional has not acted quickly enough to diagnose a condition.
  • Failure to diagnose a related disease: where a medical professional diagnoses only one condition and missing potentially related issues.

What are the impacts?

Medical misdiagnosis often results in the worsening of the underlying condition.


Depending on what that is, the patient could endure:

  • prolonged illness,
  • related illnesses as a result,
  • In some cases, death.

Example

Mary went to the doctor for two years complaining of tingling and numbness spreading from her neck down to her hands in various locations. She felt fatigued nearly all the time, and often found herself unbalanced and falling over. 


After two years of having her concerns fall on deaf ears, she went to get a second opinion. This second opinion uncovered the truth – for years Mary had been living with undiagnosed Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

In this instance, the first doctor breached their duty of care with ‘missed diagnosis’.

Now ask yourself


Was I incorrectly diagnosed with another condition?


Was my diagnosis missed all together by a medical practitioner?


Did a medical practitioner fail to diagnose my condition in the early stages?


Did a medical practitioner fail to identify associated or related conditions to the one they diagnosed me with?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of medical misdiagnosis.


As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 


To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

Been a victim of medical misdiagnosis?

Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


2.0 Surgical Negligence 

surgical negligence

What is it?

Surgical negligence occurs when a preventable complication or error happens within an operation. 


These complications and errors need to be considered beyond the known risks of that procedure - ie. end-stage kidney disease is a known risk of a liver transplant, however a punctured stomach isn't.


Common complications and errors include:

What are the impacts?

  • Surgical errors can have seriously detrimental effects to the patient, including:
    • Damage to veins,
    • Organ failure,
    • Brain injury from anaesthetic complications,
    • Scarring and disfigurement,
    • Infections,
    • Longstanding disabilities,
    • Injury to surrounding tissues and organs.

    Example

    John had to have a procedure to fix some compression fractures in his spine. In this procedure, known as vertebroplasty, bone cement is injected into the affected area of spine to fill and support the fracture.


    But in John’s vertebroplasty, cement was injected into more than just his fractures. The cement had also been injected into his facet joints. It then leaked into some veins and blocked a nerve.


    In this instance, the doctor breached their duty of care by performing the procedure on the incorrect body part.

    Now ask yourself


    Was the incorrect operation performed on me?


    Was another body part negatively affected throughout the surgery?


    Do I have reason to believe my body parts might have been unethically treated throughout the surgery?


    Do I have reason to believe a foreign object was left in my body after the surgery?

    If you answered‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of surgical negligence.

    As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 

    To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

    Been a victim of surgical negligence?

    Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


    3.0 Cosmetic Negligence

    cosmetic negligence

    What is it?

    Cosmetic negligence occurs when a preventable complication or error happens within a cosmetic procedure. 


    These complications and errors need to be considered beyond the known risks of that procedure - ie. necrosis (the death of skin) is a known risk of breast implants, however a ruptured silicone implant is not. 


    Common cosmetic complications and errors are normally caused by:

    • Inexperience of the operating surgeon,
    • Poor and insufficient pre and post care and instruction,
    • Improper surgical technique.

    What are the impacts?

    The same physical complications as normal surgical negligence can be experienced, however due to the nature of the procedure, patients often also experience:


    • Cosmetic disfigurement,
    • Consequential mental disorders and dysphoria, resulting in a heavily impacted day-to-day life.

    Example

    Johanna had always been self-conscious of her body. Flipping through magazines. Yearning to look like the women in them. 


    For years she put aside money to get procedures done. 


    At first it was lip injections. Then some botox. Then laser resurfacing.


    But one day she decided that wasn’t enough. She wanted a bigger change. So she booked in for breast implants with a local doctor. 


    Destined to have the body she always dreamed of, she was shocked just weeks after the procedure to discover her breasts were uneven, and more than that, she experienced extremely painful (and constant) shooting chest pains.


    She had a revision surgery by another doctor who found that her incisions had been incorrectly done. This led to her uneven results and caused serious internal infection, which were the cause of her extreme pain.


    In this instance, the doctor breached their duty of care by demonstrating improper surgical technique and insufficient post care.

    Now ask yourself


    Have I been cosmetically disfigured at all?


    Do I have infections or other issues from post-operative care?


    Am I experiencing side effects I was unaware would happen?

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of surgical negligence.

    As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 

    To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

    Been a victim of cosmetic negligence?

    Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


    4.0 Prescription and Medication Negligence

    medication and prescription

    What is it?

    Prescription and medication errors happen when a professional has recommended:


    • The incorrect medication or treatment,
    • The incorrect dosage amount - such as too much of a drug,
    • The incorrect treatment period - such as too short or too long of a treatment time,
    • A dangerous mixture of medications,
    • Medication that contains a known allergen to the patient.

    What are the impacts?

    Impacts from prescription and medication errors can be similar to misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis, as the underlying issue is not being treated.


    These impacts can be:

    • Prolonged illness,
    • Related illnesses as a result,
    • Aggravated or enhanced symptoms,
    • In some cases, death.

    Example

    Jacob had suffered with mental illness for years, skipping from professional to professional, being handed around as a case that was ‘just too-hard’.  


    Finally, he found a psychiatrist who understood him, and proclaimed to have experience in this area of mental illness.


    His new psychiatrist prescribed him a mixture of medication ‘sure to solve his troubles’.


    Thorazine. Trifalon. Stelazine.


    The doctor knew how complex Jacob’s issues were, so prescribed him multiple doses daily of all three medications.


    This toxic, high potency concoction caused Jacob’s blood to seriously thin, as well as his schizophrenia to be amplified.


    In this instance, the doctor breached their duty of care by prescribing a dangerous dosage and mixture of medications.

    Now ask yourself


    Have I been prescribed the incorrect medication or treatment?


    Have I been prescribed an incorrect dosage amount or treatment period?


    Have I been prescribed with a dangerous mixture of medications?


    Have I been prescribed medication that contains a known allergen to me?

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of negligence in prescription and medication.

    As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 

    To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

    Been a victim of prescription and medication negligence?

    Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


    5.0 Pregnancy and Birthcare Negligence

    birth trauma

    What is it?

    Pregnancy and birthing injuries are sadly very common, and are a result of a medical professional's negligence throughout pregnancy or labour.


    This area of negligence can include:

    • Prescribing medication or treatments dangerous to a pregnant person,
    • Performing labour and delivery without reasonable skill and care,
    • Inattentiveness throughout labour and delivery,
    • Unavailability of professionals in vital times,
    • Inexperienced medical practitioners - such as students or unsupervised juniors,

    What are the impacts?

    In pregnancy and birthing injuries, there is commonly more than just one stakeholder - that is to say, more people effected than just the patient themselves.


    These other stakeholders are the baby/ies as well as the family or friends of the patient.


    A baby who is a victim of pregnancy or birthing negligence can have a myriad of complications, including:
    • Erb’s palsy,
    • Brachial plexus injuries,
    • Congenital hip dysplasia,
    • Shaken baby syndrome,
    • In serious instances, death.

    The pregnant woman can experience:

    • Second or third degree tears,
    • Gestational diabetes,
    • Uterine rupture,
    • Infertility or inability to carry again,
    • Surgical error and associated side effects,
    • Extreme financial duress in wrongful birth situations,
    • Severe mental trauma.

    And partners, friends, and other family members will generally experience mental trauma from witnessing the ordeal. This is known as 'nervous shock' and is explored later in this article. 

    Example

    Jennifer was so excited. She had finally reached the day, the day her little baby boy would be born. After 8 rounds of IVF and as her first child, she was beyond ecstatic.


    Her C-section was scheduled, alleviating any stress she had about the natural birth process. The nurses would be ready. The doctor would be prepared. She knew when she came out of the room her life would be changed forever.


    But what she didn’t expect, was that her life would be changed for the worse.


    A few months after having her son, she experienced sharp pains in her lower abdomen.


    Upon getting a second opinion and having tests done, it was found that her internal stitches from the C-section were pulled too tightly. So tightly that the blood flow had ceased in parts.


    It caused a section of her uterus to ‘die’


    When the news broke, she was told that she would be unlikely to ever carry a child again due to the impact it had on her uterus, naturally taking a huge toll on hers and her husband’s lives - both physically but also mentally. After 8 rounds of IV, she was tormented by the thought that this could be her only child.


    In this instance, the doctor/treating medical practitioner breached their duty of care by failing to perform the delivery without due skill and care, as well as inattentiveness throughout the procedure. 

    Now ask yourself


    Was I ever prescribed medication or treatment that would’ve been dangerous to me as a pregnant person?


    Did my labour and delivery team lack reasonable skill and care?


    Were delivery staff at all inattentive?


    Were there issues with unavailability for doctors?


    Was I treated by inexperienced medical practitioners, such as students?

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of negligence in prescription and medication.

    As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 

    To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

    Been a victim of pregnancy or birthcare negligence?

    Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


    6.0 Failure to Warn of Risks

    failure to warn

    What is it?

    ​Before a patient undergoes a procedure, they have to agree to it. 


    And to be able to agree to it, they have to be made aware of all of the risks involved. 


    When a practitioner fulfills this duty and the patient agrees, it's known as 'informed consent'. 


    But, when the practitioner has failed their duty and doesn't tell the patient about the risks, it's known as 'failure to warn'. 


    Failure to warn is a breach of duty of care, and includes situations where a medical practitioner:

    • Fails to warn of adverse effects should the procedure take place,
    • Fails to warn of adverse effects should they not continue with the procedure,
    • Fails to disclose information on their ability to perform the particular procedure.

    Example

    Michelle was going through diagnosis for a stem cell disorder.


    Being that stem cells are found in the bone, to have an accurate diagnosis Michelle was going to need a bone marrow biopsy.


    Knowing that this was a fairly invasive procedure - a thick metal needle puncturing her back and pelvis - she was apprehensive.


    She asked her doctor if it would be necessary, to which he said he couldn't force her. 


    What he failed to say, though, was that if she didn't get it done then her diagnosis would be inconclusive. And with an inconclusive outcome, her condition could worsen over time if left undetected. 


    Concerned about the procedure and feeling fine, Michelle decided not to go ahead with the biopsy. Confirming with her doctor that this was fine, she was ecstatic to skip the procedure.


    Ecstatic until her kidney failed two years later. 


    With the stem cell disorder present yet going undetected, Michelle's condition had worsened, attacking her kidney along the way.


    Saying had she had known there was a high likelihood the negative diagnosis was unreliable without it, she would've definitely had the procedure done, inevitable saving her from her kidney failure.


    In this instance, the doctor breached their duty of care by failing to warn of the risks should Michelle have not gone through with the procedure. 

    Now ask yourself


    Did my medical practitioner fail to warn me of adverse effects should the procedure take place?


    Did my medical practitioner fail to warn me of adverse effects should the procedure not take place?


    Did my medical practitioner fail to disclose information on their ability to perform my particular procedure?

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of negligence through failure to warn.

    As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 

    To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

    Been a victim of failure to warn?

    Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


    7.0 Failure to Follow Up

    failure to follow up

    What is it?

    It is generally breached through:
    • Inattentiveness,
    • Incompetency,
    • Lack of knowledge,
    • Lack of care.

    Example

    Oscar had been suffering with his vision for a year or two. 


    Every now and again his eye, just one, would dilate without reason. His pupil would grow, making it painful to see, slightly fuzzy, and way too bright. 


    He ended up seeing an optometrist, and then an ophthalmologist. 


    Worried about his vision, he was eager to get results and solve the problem before it got worse. He waited for days, and then weeks. And then a month passed.


    And then two.


    And then his vision deteriorated dramatically. 


    Oscar had been at a concert with friends when his vision suddenly went. He was rushed to emergency where the doctors had to chase medical records to work out what was wrong with him. 


    In their search, they found test results that had conclusive data on them.


    Oscar had a bacterial infection in his right eye that was easily treatable with eye drops and antibiotics, but left untreated was lethal to his vision. 


    His ophthalmologist had been sitting on the results for 6 weeks but failed to report on them, noting it as 'just a bacterial infection' but not noting the extremities of not having it treated.


    In this instance, the ophthalmologist breached their duty of care by failing to report on Oscar's test results in a timely manner.

    Now ask yourself


    Has my medical condition worsened because my doctor was slow to give me results?


    Has my doctor demonstrated inadequate care after a procedure?

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of negligence through failure to follow up.

    As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 

    To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

    Been a victim of failure to follow up?

    Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


    These are just 7 of the most common ways the medical system will neglect patients. 

    But, as we stated in our previous article, it's not just doctors that can be held accountable for negligence. 

    Nurses and dentists are two of the other most commonly claimed against medical practitioners. 

    Below, we've provided the same steps as above so you can work out if you've been a victim of negligence under another medical practitioner. 

    Medical Negligence in Other Professions – Nursing

    nursing negligence

    What is it?

    Nursing is the second most complained about profession, accounting for 15% of complaints made to the Office of the Health Ombudsmen. 


    Medical negligence in nursing is commonly demonstrated through:
    • Failure to properly monitor vitals,
    • Administration of the incorrect medication or dosage,
    • Failure to administer the medication at all,
    • Failure to request assistance from a doctor,
    • Documentation errors and mistakes,
    • Failure to check equipment is working.

    Example

    Kelly was a newly registered nurse at the city’s hospital, working her fourth nightshift in a row.


    Part of this nightshift included checking a handful of patient’s vital signs every 2 hours.


    On her fourth round for the night, she ticked off her patients one by one. Until she reached patient Bourkes.


    Feeling tired and on her last round before her weekend, Kelly was dreaming of her beach trip away. She spoke about it quickly with Bourkes whilst checking his vitals.


    Temperature. Blood pressure. Heart rate. Respiratory rate.


    She reported it all as normal, but she noticed there were a couple of vitals missing from her previous rounds. She must have forgotten to report Bourkes’ vitals.


    Instead of contacting a superior to alert someone to her mistake, Kelly scribbled in some normal numbers for Bourkes’ vitals and left it at that.


    Hours later, Bourke experienced a serious heart attack, something that would’ve been picked up in vitals if she had performed these properly, and reported on them honestly.


    In this instance, the nurse, Kelly, breached her duty of care by failing to properly monitor vitals and report on documentation honestly.

    Now ask yourself


    Have I ever questioned that my nurse might've incorrectly or falsely reported on my vitals?


    Have I ever thought my nurse has administered the incorrect medication or dosage?


    Has my nurse ever forgotten to administer my medication?


    Has my nurse ever refused to request assistance from a doctor or specialist?


    Have I ever noticed that my nurse has documented by condition incorrectly?


    Have I ever had equipment break or not work on me because my nurse forgot to check it first?

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of nursing negligence.

    As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 

    To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

    Been a victim of nursing negligence?

    Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


    Medical Negligence in Other Professions – Dentistry

    dental negligence

    What is it?

    Medical negligence in dentistry is commonly related to surgical negligence, however is inclusive of all above listed items as well. 


    The most common procedures where negligence is observed include:

    • Endodontic procedures,
    • Dental extractions,
    • Dental implants,
    • Sub-standard crown and bridge treatment,
    • Actions relating to periodontal disease,
    • Dental anaesthesia complications,
    • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and orthognathic surgeries.

    Example

    After years of suffering with a severe under-bite, Harry was incredibly happy that the day had finally come for it to be fixed.


    Orthognathic surgery was going to be his key to happiness, and Dr Lieu was going to give him that key.


    Orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery, is generally where parts of jaw bone are removed and pieces are screwed back together to form a new jaw shape.


    Harry couldn’t wait.


    But after a few months had passed and the swelling and side effects had died down, he was shocked to discover his jaw was not at all what he had expected.


    His jaw had been moved back, but too far back.


    He now had a receding lower jaw, which he hated even more than his under-bite. Dr Lieu had taken too big of a chunk of Harry’s jaw. 


    He had to have serious corrective surgery by another doctor to fix the mistakes.


    In this instance, the orthodontist, Dr Lieu, breached his duty of care by failing to perform the surgery with reasonable care and skill.

    Now ask yourself


    Have I ever had complications after dental anesthesia? 


    Have I had the incorrect tooth or part of your mouth operated on?


    Have I experienced highly adverse outcomes after a dental procedure? 

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could have been a victim of dental negligence.

    As we'll explain in a later article, medical negligence claims are a ticking time bomb... one that, if left too late, will leave you with nothing. 

    To ensure you don't miss out, you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer immediately to get your rights protected.

    Been a victim of dental negligence?

    Speak to a lawyer for free to find out for sure.


    If you've identified any of these situations as relative to your situation, it's likely you've ticked the first criteria in a medical negligence claim - 'breach of duty of care'.

    And now that you've identified the breach, you need to be able to say that this breach is what has caused the adverse outcome.

    In our next article we will take a deeper dive into this criteria - two of three - and explain how you can work out whether or not their negligence caused the outcome, and to what extent. 

    This will give you a practical way to evaluate your potential to bring a claim against a medical treatment provider.

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