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How Does Medical Malpractice Affect the Elderly?

Published: Nov 9, 2020 in Medical Malpractice
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Medical malpractice affects people every day across the globe and can harm both the patient and their family. The impact of malpractice can include physical injury, emotional and mental distress, and even loss of life. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

The elderly are typically at greater risk when it comes to health issues, and it is no different when it comes to medical malpractice. Seniors face increased health issues with advanced age as well as complications from medical procedures. For these reasons, medical malpractice is of special concern to the older population.

What is Medical Malpractice?

To understand how patients can find assistance with their cases, it is important to know about medical malpractice. When a patient is harmed by a medical professional who fails to properly perform their medical duties, it falls under malpractice. This could include improper conduct during treatment, mistakes or mistreatment, or neglecting to provide proper care. Doctors and other medical professionals have a duty of care, and failure to provide that care can lead to a medical malpractice case.

How is Medical Malpractice Proven?

Proving malpractice can be difficult. A victim and their lawyer must show the following:

  • Treatment: This means that a malpractice suit can only be filed against a medical professional who was directly involved in treating the patient.
  • Negligence: A malpractice suit must demonstrate that the physician or medical professional failed to provide needed treatment.
  • Injury: Failure to provide adequate care is a serious matter, but if there is no demonstrable injury, there is no malpractice case.
  • Medical Malpractice Caused the Injury: Simply showing that the patient suffered after treatment is not enough. Any loss or damage must be proven to be the result of the doctor’s actions.

Types of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice can be divided into two broad categories. Typically, a malpractice case will involve a physician who either fails to act or acts in an incompetent manner.

Most cases of malpractice can be broken down further into three common categories:

Failure to Inform of Known Risks: Physicians are bound by a duty of informed consent. This means that a patient must be warned about all known risks associated with a procedure so that they can make an informed decision. Failure to inform a patient about risks can cause the physician to be held liable for injury because the patient may have opted against the procedure if they had been informed of the risks.

Failure to Diagnose: A patient may have a malpractice claim if it is shown that a competent doctor should have been able to make a diagnosis that was missed and that proper diagnoses would have produced a more favorable outcome.

Failure to Provide Proper Treatment: If harm results from a physician administering the wrong treatment, or even the correct treatment in an incompetent way, a patient may have a solid case for malpractice.

Seniors and Medical Complications

Elderly patients face many of the same issues as anyone else when it comes to medical malpractice, but there are special considerations when it comes to senior citizens. Worsening health conditions that often accompany age lead to more frequent hospital trips for the elderly. Senior citizens are a vulnerable population and may have more difficulty recovering when a medical procedure goes wrong, and they may suffer more from medical mistakes.

Additionally, negligence and malpractice are issues that can become prominent in nursing home settings. Elderly individuals in residential care facilities have more regular contact with health care workers, which means more opportunities for something going wrong. Beyond this, there is also the issue of elder abuse which shares similarities to traditional malpractice while differing in how the two are handled legally.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse may involve neglect, like in many malpractice cases, however, there are a couple of important differences. One notable distinction is that elder abuse can include neglect of custodial duties rather than just medical ones. This means that a person in a caregiving role could be liable for damages, even if they were not providing direct medical care. Examples include failure to assist with eating and bathing that led to the deterioration of health. In more extreme cases, elder abuse may include actual assault by a caregiver. Additionally, unlike medical malpractice claims, there are no caps on damages when it comes to elder abuse.

Identifying Medical Malpractice and Elder Abuse

Signs of elder abuse can be physical and behavioral. Sometimes, those in assisted care facilities are not able to clearly communicate, and loved ones need to be observant. Signs like new bruises and injuries as well as changes in mental status, like increased anxiety or depression, could be cause for concern.

Identifying malpractice can be more challenging, but it is important. The main element to remember is that it is the failure of a medical professional to perform their legal duty, resulting in harm. If there is a clear duty, negligence, and harm to the patient, there may well be a case. However, the laws are very complex, and it is best to contact a legal professional about any malpractice concerns.

State Law and Medical Malpractice

Each state has its own laws regarding medical malpractice, and it is important to understand the specific filing rules and procedures. Most states, for example, require a claim to be filed in a certain timeframe. This could range from six months to two years. The exact procedures vary greatly by state as well. Many states require information to go before a special review panel. Some states even require patients to notify the physicians of any malpractice claims against them in advance.

A victim will have a difficult time understanding all the laws surrounding medical malpractice. For this reason, it is essential that a victim seeks legal representation as soon as possible to start a case.

Edwardsville Medical Malpractice Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Protect Seniors Against Negligent Physicians

Understanding medical malpractice law is difficult. There are so many considerations, ranging from state and federal regulations to the specifics of each case. Our Edwardsville medical malpractice lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC help victims of medical malpractice. Contact us online or call us at 618-277-3644 for a free consultation. Located in Swansea, Illinois, we serve clients throughout Belleville, Carbondale, East St. Louis, Granite City, Edwardsville, Chester, Waterloo, St. Louis, Madison County, St. Clair County, Monroe County, and Randolph County.