The emergency department is a vital part of the hospital, more often than not providing excellent care. However, as with any other medical care provider or hospital department, it is capable of error. The Emergency Room can be the most hectic, and perhaps most challenging, place in a hospital to practice medicine. Its doctors and nurses face patients in the most critical and life threatening conditions, requiring immediate work up, diagnosis and treatment, with little or no time to spare. Given the absence of medical insurance for a significant portion of our society, the emergency room has become the “family doctor” for all too many. As a result, even when they are fully staffed, an Emergency Room may be strained to its limits by the need for speed, urgency and accuracy in patient care. This may foster medical errors by competent and well intentioned caregivers over and above the errors doctors and nurses commit under normal circumstances.
Because of the tenuous hold on life that many emergency room patients have upon admission to that department, emergency room error may be devastating. The law recognizes the pressure cooker atmosphere of the emergency room and holds its personnel not to the standard of practitioners in other areas of the hospital who may have more time to consider non-emergent situations, but rather to the reasonable medical conduct of other emergency room personnel under similar circumstances.
What are the typical emergency room errors? Common mistakes involve the failure to correctly diagnose a blood disorder, an aneurysm, a tumor, a stroke, appendicitis or a heart attack, or other conditions not presenting a possibility of imminent danger. While some emergency departments have staffed specially trained “stroke units,” which are better able to respond within the small window of opportunity existing with clot related strokes, others have not, risking the loss of vital time in initiating clot busting treatment. “Triage” assessment mistakes may also result in care being delayed in favor of a more critical patient, with harm befalling the slow tracked patient. Some errors arise when symptoms are dismissed as not related to a serious condition and no further work up by diagnostic tests or studies is offered, with the patient being sent away with a “lesser” diagnosis and instructions to return to see family doctor as needed. If the underlying condition then evolves into a catastrophe, a return may be too late. When confronted with so many obvious medical emergencies (such as car accidents and shootings), there may be a tendency to give insufficient attention to patients with more subtle conditions.
At the Law Offices of Judy Greenwood, P.C., we regularly represent victims who have been injured as a result of inadequate emergency room care. Because these cases are often complex, we have access to emergency room doctors, nurses, and other medical specialists and a doctor/lawyer available to review the facts of your case, and to provide the medical insight necessary to determine if there was negligence or substandard care.