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Chicago medical malpractice attorneysWhile the current rate of medical malpractice in the United States places every patient at risk, some have a higher risk than others. Among them are non-English and limited English speaking patients and families (about 20 percent of the U.S. population, or about 57 million people). Just what is this risk, and what does it mean for limited or non-English speaking citizens? More importantly, what rights do people in these communities have if they do experience a serious error? The following explains further.

Understanding the Risks

Numerous studies have been conducted on the potential harm that patients face when doctors make critical mistakes and diagnostic errors. Among them are studies that have examined the potential effects of language barriers, which have found that non-English speaking and limited English speaking patients have an overall higher risk of experiencing:

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Chicago medical malpractice lawyersMedical malpractice – medical treatment that is substandard to the point of causing harm, death, or injury to a patient – is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. What really constitutes malpractice, though, and do you tell if you have a case? While it is best to discuss your situation with an experienced legal professional, the following information may help you in determining whether or not you have a medical negligence case.

What Constitutes Medical Negligence?

Not every harm or injury sustained while receiving medical treatment can be classified as medical negligence. Hospitals, physicians, and nurses are only considered liable when their actions (or inaction) have caused injury or harm. In other words, the provider needs to have deviated from the standard practice of care (the quality of treatment that a competent doctor would have provided in a similar situation), and it needs to have caused an injury or harm to their patient. For example, if a doctor prescribes the wrong medication to a patient and it results in a severe allergic reaction, the doctor may be considered liable.

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Chicago Illinois medical malpractice lawyersEarlier this year, the BMJ published a frightening and ground-breaking report – medical error, or medical mistakes made during the course of treatment, cause more deaths than traffic accidents, construction accidents, diabetes, and even obesity. In fact, the only cancer and heart disease kill more people each year. Of course, we knew that death caused by medical error was an issue; back in 1998, the Institute of Medicine revealed that as many as 98,000 people died from medical mistakes.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the first report did little to remedy the problem. Now found to be responsible for as many as 251,000 deaths per year – about 700 deaths per day, and around 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States – it would seem that the death toll has been steadily rising by about 15,000 extra deaths each and every year. That should be enough to scare anyone.

Hospitals Talk About Change

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Chicago IL medical malpractice attorneysEach year, more than 200,000 patients die from a preventable medical mistake and as many as four million more experience non-fatal errors that can delay treatment, compromise care, or otherwise put the patient at risk for serious injury or illness. And then there are those who experience willfully malicious acts (such as sexual abuse at the hands of their physician) that may or may not affect treatment or diagnosis but can cause great harm. 

Some incidents may be fairly clear-cut, with substantial evidence indicating negligence or medical malpractice. However, many may lack such evidence and, in some cases, the mistake (or its consequence) may not be immediately evident. For example, a patient who has cancer but is misdiagnosed may not learn until long after the fact. Either way, patients should know when and how to file a complaint against their doctor, should the need arise. 

When to File a Complaint 

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medical negligence, illinois personal injury attorneyState medical boards may be responsible for overseeing the licensing and practice of physicians, but their responsibility, first and foremost, is to the public. Yet, when looking at the large number of doctors who have committed serious acts of abuse or medical negligence and still practicing medicine, it would seem that maybe the licensing boards have forgotten their role.

Doctors Behaving Badly

While studies have shown that only about one percent of all doctors are responsible for the majority of medical mistakes, that small portion has the potential to cause great harm. Their acts – sometimes sheer negligence or incompetence and others outright abuse (even to the point of criminal) – go undisclosed to the public and, in some cases, undisciplined.  Many are permitted to continue practicing, and their patients are usually none the wiser.

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Compartment Syndrome, Chicago medical malpractice lawyersCompartment syndrome, a serious condition that causes increased pressure in the body’s muscle compartments, can be caused by even minor trauma to any part of the body. Its consequences, which can take hold quickly, can be devastating if not properly addressed by medical professionals. Indeed, in many cases, it is only their suspicion of the condition and prompt treatment that have the ability to save a patient from permanent and potentially fatal side effects.

Understanding Compartment Syndrome

Within any given muscle group, one will find thick layers of tissue, called fascia, separating it from the other muscle groups. Inside of each layer of fascia, there is a confined space, called a “compartment,” and within each one of those, there are blood vessels, nerves, and tissue. Swelling within the compartment, usually caused by injury, will place pressure on the internal parts and, if allowed to build up enough, blood flow to the compartment will become blocked.

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surgeon complication rates, medical negligence, Chicago Medical Malpractice LawyerSince the 1999 publication of “To Err is Human,” a landmark report from the Institute of Medicine on the number of medical errors in the United States, patient safety has been at the forefront of health care discussions. Unfortunately, little has changed since then; a recent study from ProPublica has provided a closer (and highly disturbing) look.

ProPublica Reveals Disparity in Patient Care Among Surgeons

Medical malpractice studies are not a new concept, but ProPublica took their analysis beyond statistics as a whole; they individually examined the Medicare cases of 17,000 surgeons over the course of five years. Eight commonly performed elective procedures were examined, including knee and hip replacements, spinal fusions, prostate removals and resections, and gallbladder removals – all of which are considered routine, straightforward, and relatively low risk.

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medical negligence in Illinois, Chicago malpractice attorneyMedical negligence occurs far more often than the number of cases reported for litigation. According to research published by Northern Illinois University College of Law, an estimated 4,325 patients die in hospitals in Illinois every year from preventable medical errors. Of this number, 96 percent of medical malpractice victims never pursue a claim.

Cornell University Law School Professor, Theodore Eisenberg surmises in his 2012 paper, “The Empirical Effects of Tort Reform,” that people who do not sue as a result of a medical error do not recover costs. Prof. Eisenberg shares that a possible contributing factor to the high rate of medical errors is due to the fact that most patients victim to medical malpractice do not file a claim. Therefore, doctors do not expect they will be responsible for full costs as a result of their negligence.

Our law firm is here to help victims understand their legal rights when it involves medical malpractice. It is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible regarding an incident in which medical error was involved due to the statutes of limitations applied by the state.

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medical malpractice cases rise, Chicago malpractice attorneyThe Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) study “To Err is Human” was published over a decade ago with medical malpractice statistics showing that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients are killed in hospitals every year as a result of medical errors, leading up to $29 billion in costs every year.

The study reported errors at different points of care, including the following examples:

  • Error or delay in diagnosis;
  • Error to act on results of testing or monitoring;
  • Error in administering treatment; and
  • Error during operation or procedure.

Fast forward 15 years and patient safety issues are still a rising concern in hospitals across the country. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article summarizing that, “on any given day, approximately one in 25 U.S. patients has at least one infection contracted during the course of their hospital care.”

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