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Medical Malpractice: The Ways in Which it Leads to Wrongful Death Claims

Fri 17 May, 2024 / by / Personal Injury, Wrongful Death

When someone dies, it is always a tragic event. That tragedy can be compounded, however, when the death is the result of a doctor or hospital seemingly not doing its job. This is also known as medical malpractice. Fortunately, there are ways that the family of the deceased can seek closure and financial compensation if this happens. An individual can file a wrongful death claim as a result of medical malpractice. These are the most common ways that medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death claims. 

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice happens when a healthcare professional or provider does not meet the expected standard of care within the medical community and this leads to harm or injury to the patient. It may or may not lead to death. This negligence can occur in a variety of ways, which means that it is crucial to understand the key elements, types, and legal implications of medical malpractice.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death refers to a legal claim that is brought against a person or entity for causing someone’s death due to their negligence or intentional harm. This type of claim allows the surviving family members or representatives of the deceased to seek compensation for their loss. 

Here are the key elements of a wrongful death claim:

  1. Someone passes away.
  2. That person’s death is caused by negligence or intentional harm. The death must have been caused by the wrongful actions, negligence, or intent to harm by another party. This could include situations such as medical malpractice, car accidents, workplace accidents, or criminal acts.
  3. There are surviving family members of the deceased who have suffered financial or emotional injury as a result of the death. These can include spouses, children, and sometimes parents or other dependents. In Illinois, only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Per Illinois law, a personal representative is an administrator, executor, standby guardian, temporary guardian and administrator of a deceased person’s estate.
  4. There must be damages resulting from the death. This can include loss of income, funeral expenses, medical bills, loss of companionship, and other related costs.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the healthcare provider’s negligence directly caused the patient’s death.  Medical experts will often testify to establish the standard of care and explain how the healthcare provider deviated from that standard.

How Medical Malpractice Commonly Leads to Wrongful Death 

Medical malpractice that leads to wrongful death involves negligence or errors by healthcare professionals that result in the death of a patient. Several types of medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death. Here are some of the most common reasons that medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death.

Anesthesia Errors

These are mistakes that are made in administering anesthesia, such as incorrect dosage, failure to monitor the patient properly, or using the wrong anesthesia. Anesthesia errors can lead to brain damage, heart failure, or even death if the patient is not monitored correctly or if the dosage is incorrect.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries are caused by negligence during labor and delivery of the baby that harms the mother or infant. This can include the improper use of forceps, failure to perform a timely C-section, or inadequate monitoring of fetal distress. Severe birth injuries can result in the death of the newborn or the mother due to complications like oxygen deprivation or excessive bleeding.

Failure to Treat

This is defined as failing to provide appropriate treatment after diagnosing a medical condition, such as not administering necessary medication, not performing required surgery, or not offering follow-up care. This negligence can lead to the worsening of the patient’s condition and their eventual death.

Hospital-Acquired Infections 

A loved one can become infected in a healthcare facility while receiving treatment for other conditions. Hospital-acquired infections, such as MRSA or pneumonia, can be particularly dangerous and lead to death, especially in patients who are the most vulnerable.

Medication Errors

A medical professional can make errors in prescribing, dispensing, or administering medication, including incorrect dosage, wrong medication, or harmful drug interactions. These medication errors can cause adverse reactions, overdose, or failure to treat the underlying condition, potentially leading to death.

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

This happens when there is a failure to diagnose a serious condition correctly or in a timely manner. A delayed or incorrect diagnosis can prevent a patient from receiving the necessary treatment, leading to the progression of the disease and potentially resulting in their death.

Nursing Home Negligence

Neglect or improper care in nursing homes, including failure to provide adequate medical treatment, nutrition, or hygiene, and failing to prevent falls or bedsores, is an unfortunately very common occurrence. Elderly and infirm patients are especially susceptible to severe complications and death due to negligence in nursing homes.

Sepsis

Inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, improper post-surgical care, or failure to diagnose and treat infections can lead to health problems, including infections or worsening infections. Infections can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening condition that can result in organ failure and death if not treated promptly and effectively.

Surgical Errors

Mistakes can be made during surgery, including operating on the wrong body part, leaving surgical instruments inside the patient, or performing the wrong procedure. These errors can cause severe complications, infections, or internal bleeding, which can be fatal.

Hire an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney 

Medical malpractice that leads to wrongful death is devastating to loved ones, and it can be difficult for a family in crisis to navigate. It is also legally complex, as death could result from a wide range of negligent actions by healthcare providers. If medical malpractice is suspected in a wrongful death case, it is essential for the affected family to seek experienced legal counsel to understand their rights and guidance to pursue appropriate compensation.