In 2014, Danielle Boyd was awarded $15 million in damages after filing a medical malpractice claim against a Hanover-based doctor. This is currently one of the largest medical malpractice awards in Canadian history. The case dates back to December, 2008, when Ms. Boyd visited Hanover & District Hospital, complaining of a severe headache. Her symptoms also included slurred speech and numbness to one side of her body. After considering the possibility of a hypertensive crisis, the doctor who treated Ms. Boyd that night prescribed a drug to lower her blood pressure.
However, with no signs of improvement the following morning, Ms. Boyd was transferred to a London hospital, where she later suffered a stroke that left her almost paralyzed from the neck down. Ms. Boyd’s family filed a medical malpractice suit against the Hanover-doctor, as well as Hanover & District Hospital, with the claim that the doctor’s decision to lower the former’s blood pressure created a clot in her brain that later led to the stroke.
Medical malpractice is a legal action that occurs when a claimant believes that a medical professional’s failure to deliver the expected standard of care of his/her profession resulted in an injury to them. It is can be one of the more challenging types of personal injury claims to successfully prove. However, while proving medical malpractice can be difficult, everyone owes it to themselves to consult with a personal injury attorney if they believe they or someone they love, was injured due to the negligence of a medical practitioner. In many instances, the consequences of mistakes or poor judgement by medical professionals are substantial and life changing, and innocent victims and their families deserve to obtain answers and fair compensation.
The following are some of the most common errors that fall under the category of medical malpractice.
- Misdiagnosis/Delayed Diagnosis – The failure of a medical professional to correctly diagnose a patient’s condition or not diagnose an illness or condition in time to prevent further injury or death, is a frequent ground for medical malpractice claims. This medical oversight can lead to serious consequences, particularly when the misdiagnosis results in the administering of incorrect treatment that only makes the condition worse, such as the circumstances that led to Danielle Boyd’s stroke.
- Medication Errors – In late 2013, CBC News reported that 36 patients had been harmed, including 10 fatalities, due to medication errors at Ontario hospitals, in the first year that hospitals were required to record critical incidents involving medications. These mistakes were found to often result in increased medical stays and sometimes, in disability. Medication errors may include: when a doctor prescribes a too high dosage; a nurse or another healthcare worker administers the incorrect dosage or the wrong medication; and/or an unexpected adverse reaction to a drug. Medical practitioners may also be held liable for not fully informing an individual of all the possible risks associated with taking a certain medication.
- Childbirth Errors – The period when a woman is pregnant generally entails frequent medical visits for prenatal care, which culminates in the actual childbirth process. In the vast majority of cases in Ontario, childbirth results in a healthy baby and mother. However, during ongoing care and labour, there is potential for medical errors and possible harm to the baby and mother-to-be if a medical practitioner fails to act within the expected standard of care. Medical errors related to childbirth that may lead to injuries for a mother or infant include: a failure to diagnose any medical condition in the mother-to-be that places hers, or the baby’s health at risk; a failure to anticipate delivery complications; poor judgement or errors made in the delivery procedures; and/or a failure to diagnose and mitigate possible birth defects.
- Anesthesia Errors – Any error in the anesthetic provided to a patient can put their health at great risk and may result in very serious and life-altering consequences, including brain damage, stroke and even death. The wrong amount or type of anesthesia administered before and during a surgery is quite possibly one of the most dangerous medical risks.
- Surgery Errors – This includes everything from the pre-op activities, to the actual surgical procedure and finally, the post-op care. Mistakes can be made at any of these points that can result in mild to severe consequences, including death, for a patient.
After having a better understanding of what qualifies as medical malpractice, it is very important to understand the steps and factors necessary to successfully prove a medical malpractice claim.
- Breach of Standard of Care – There is a standard of care that hospitals and medical practitioners are legally obligated to provide to patients and most medical malpractice claims stem from a violation or breach of this standard of care. Therefore, the first step in making a successful claim is proving that a breach of standard of care occurred. The standard of care basically refers to care expected of a medical practitioner that another practitioner of similar ability and academic qualifications would deliver. Basically the claimant has to prove that a reasonably competent practitioner would not have made the error that was made.
- Causation – As with any personal injury claim, the claimant not only has to prove that an error occurred but that the error was the direct cause of any harm and injury to them. It is important to note that sometimes while a medical practitioner is guilty of negligent behavior, that behavior may not be directly responsible for the injury that occurred.
- Damages – After proving breach of standard of care and that this breach caused their injury, the claimant has to prove that they have suffered significant financial consequences due to the injury. These financial factors can be categorized under special or general damages. The factors related to special damages are more straight-forward as they are quantifiable losses, such as medical expenses incurred due to the injury and any loss of income (past and future) while the patient was recovering. General damages refer to losses that cannot be measured in monetary terms, such as pain, suffering and a loss of enjoyment in life.
All Canadians have the right to expect attention to best medical practices, particularly when we are at our most vulnerable during a medical procedure. When incompetence or a failure to deliver the expected and reasonable standard of care lead to injury, you deserve to know the cause and to hold the responsible party accountable. Although successfully proving medical malpractice can be challenging, a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can provide you with a frank appraisal of your claim, usually at no cost for an initial consultation.
Find out about your legal rights and what is involved in obtaining justice for your injury by contacting a medical malpractice lawyer at Kotak Injury Law. Each case is unique and must be assessed individually. Once you understand your options and what is involved in winning your case, if you choose to proceed with your claim, be assured that we will zealously represent you against the party responsible for your loss.