Emergency Rooms Errors: Still Causing Thousands of Patients Undue Harm

When a person suddenly suffers health complications or when an accident occurs, the first move is to rush him or her to an emergency department or emergency room (ER) of the nearest hospital. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2003, an estimated 113.9 million Americans were rushed to emergency departments due to life-threatening situations. Sadly, a decade after this, instead of the number declining, it jumped to 133.6 million.

Emergency departments are fast-paced environments where a medical team, composed of doctors, nurses and other ER staff, must provide the immediate attention required by all those who are brought there. Though medical needs differ from one patient to another, treatment must be fast, but with caution and accuracy, so as to prevent patients’ conditions from worsening. However, many of these fast-paced and over-crowded environments are understaffed, resulting to frequently overworked team members.

The rigorous years of study and training undergone by doctors and nurses are enough for people needing medical attention to respect their capabilities and trust them. Although, one must not forget that even the most respected and experienced doctors, when overworked, do not spend enough time to properly diagnose a patient, or fail to require a patient to undergo a necessary laboratory test which may help determine his or her real health problem, can commit mistakes. Medical teams in emergency departments are no different.

Diagnostic error is the most common type of medical mistake committed by doctors and nurses in emergency departments. This type of mistake includes wrongful diagnosis and delayed diagnosis, both of which may actually be due to misjudgment of symptoms. Diagnostic error can lead to an injury that is more serious; in certain cases, it can lead death.

Specific cases of diagnostic errors committed in emergency departments include:

  • A young man suffering from severe headache and nausea was rushed to a hospital’s emergency department twice, his headache much worse than when he was first rushed there. In both instances, though, he was simply diagnosed as suffering from viral infection, so he was sent home. Two days after, he died due to massive brain hemorrhage.
  • A 42-year-old woman suffers a heart attack two hours after she was discharged from the emergency department. She was diagnosed as simply suffering from chest pains.
  • An 18-year-old dies due to blood infection, a condition called sepsis. Suffering from fever and chills, he was sent home from the emergency room after being given Tylenol.

As explained in the website of the Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg law firm, though emergency departments are, to some degree, chaotic environments, these are expected to have a medical team that is prepared and trained to provide quick and accurate diagnosis that will help stabilize the health of patients. Mistakes that lead to more patient harm can, therefore, result to team members being held accountable for any avoidable mistakes that may be committed. Thus, if patients or their families feel that they have suffered a more severe injury due to an emergency room error, then it may be best that they contact a personal injury lawyer immediately for whatever possible legal action they may be able to pursue.

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