When is medical negligence more likely to occur?

Apr 4, 2023 | Publication

Medical negligence can occur at any time during the course of medical treatment, but there are certain situations that may increase the likelihood of it happening.

  1. Inadequate communication: Lack of clear and effective communication between healthcare providers and patients or their families can lead to misunderstandings and errors.
  2. Lack of experience or training: Medical professionals who are inexperienced or insufficiently trained may be more likely to make mistakes.
  3. High workload: Medical professionals who are overworked and overstressed may be more prone to errors.
  4. Inadequate staffing: If there are not enough healthcare providers to care for patients, it can increase the likelihood of mistakes.
  5. Failure to follow established protocols: Medical professionals who fail to follow established protocols or procedures may be more likely to make errors.
  6. Use of new technology: Medical professionals who are not properly trained on new technology may be more prone to errors when using it.
  7. Pre-existing conditions: Patients with pre-existing medical conditions or multiple health issues may be at higher risk for medical negligence due to the complexity of their cases.

Many a case of medical negligence in hospitals can relate to treatment at emergency departments and maternity wards. The potentially fatal outcome of medication errors in the hospital context is also another area of concern.

Emergency departments may be staffed by doctors with less experience, perhaps making them more prone to negligence; or, midwives may face the predicament of a complex birthing situation where an obstetrician should have been present.

There have also been instances of negligence where there are a number of treating practitioners and/or the involvement of nursing staff. Patients have sustained injuries or have even died when they have been prescribed medication that conflicts with another prescribed medication and checks have not been properly performed. This at times has been linked to the failure to properly communicate and/or properly complete mediation charts and records. It has also been linked to a lack of education of nursing staff with respect to medication.

In one case, an elderly patient after undergoing surgery was prescribed blood thinning medication. When it was found that he had developed clots, a decision was made to place him on alternate blood thinning medication. Thereafter, a further decision was made to again change the blood thinning medication.

Unfortunately, both the prescribing doctor and a nurse at the hospital failed to properly complete the patient’s medication chart once this further decision had been made. Consequently, the nursing staff proceeded to give the patient both blood thinning medications. This occurred on two occasions and as result, the patient suffered a massive haemorrhage and lost his life.

The Coroner found that the ‘correct procedure to cancel the prior blood thinning medication was not followed by both medical and nursing personnel and that there was inadequate communication and hand over about the change in medication between medical and nursing staff’. Furthermore, the Coroner found that the ‘nursing staff administering the blood thinning medications were not aware that the two drugs could not be given together because they had not received appropriate training and education’.

Out of the hospital environment, medical negligence can at times be related to General Practitioners choosing to treat patients for more complex illnesses rather than refer them to an appropriate specialist; or, there are circumstances where patients may undergo unnecessary treatment at times with undesirable long term side effects.

If you believe that you or someone you know may have been subjected to such treatment, we would be happy to talk through things with you, free of any charge or obligation to proceed.

McAuley Lawyers has accredited specialists who act in matters of this nature on a ‘no win, no fee basis’.

The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this publication is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. We are not responsible for the information of any source to which a link is provided or reference is made and exclude all liability in connection with use of these sources. If you do not wish to receive newsletters from us, please let us know.

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