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Emergency Room Mistakes That Lead to Serious Patient Injuries

A visit to the emergency room is stressful enough without the added fear of being the victim of a caregiver’s mistake. We expect to get proper medical treatment for the injuries or illnesses that led us to the emergency room in the first place. While the vast majority of patients who visit an emergency room get adequate medical care, some mistakes happen, whether due to faulty procedures, negligent supervision, understaffing or simple carelessness.

Mistakes attributed to caregiver negligence

Hospital administrators usually attempt to staff emergency rooms with adequate caregivers based on average patient volumes. Nonetheless, emergency rooms can quickly become overwhelmed, increasing patients’ risk of being the victims of medical malpractice errors by facility staff. Common ER mistakes include:

  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose. Some heart attack victims’ only symptom is severe abdominal pain. Studies by malpractice insurance carriers indicate emergency rooms should err on the side of caution and admit all patients with chest pains because the death rate among patients whose heart attacks are missed is almost double that of patients who are admitted. In other cases, patients with only mild or moderate abdominal pain may be suffering from appendicitis or another serious illness.
  • Testing errors. A significant portion of misdiagnoses can be attributed to incomplete or faulty medical tests. Relevant tests should be performed by qualified technicians and other medical care professionals. Doctors must take the time to consider ordering any tests that can reveal a patient’s true illness.
  • Medication errors. Even if you tell ER personnel about a medication allergy, you may still receive the medication if personnel doesn’t chart the information correctly. Other examples of medication errors include overmedication or failure to consider potentially dangerous drug interactions. Some mistakes can be avoided by keeping a current list of your medications in your wallet. If you suffer from a chronic illness, be sure to give your close family members a copy of your medications list, noting any allergies.
  • Dismissing painless symptoms. Some painless symptoms, such as jaundice or tremors, can point to liver failure, drug overdose or stroke. Doctors and nurses must be trained to look for such symptoms in every ER patient.
  • Poor communication. The growing prevalence of electronic record keeping in hospitals has had an unexpected negative effect ― nurses enter notes into a computer, but don’t always communicate the same information verbally to other nurses or doctors. Patient discharge is also a prime time for miscommunication. Inadequate written instructions or failing to convey necessary information to a patient’s family can be deadly for the patient.

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Hospitals and medical professionals may be held responsible for injuries or complications suffered by patients due to emergency room errors. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Fazio, Disalvo and Abers can help you pursue monetary compensation when you’ve been hurt as a result of medical negligence.

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