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Medical Mistakes In Emergency Rooms A Troubling Problem

April 3, 2012

Thousands of patients go to emergency rooms every day in the US. Due to a variety of problems including understaffing, many emergency departments are overcrowded and chaotic. Based on a New York area survey of doctors from February 2007, many patients have died because of delays in receiving urgently needed medical treatment. In some instances, these emergency room wrongful deaths led to expensive medical malpractice lawsuits, not to mention unnecessary heartache for many families.

Delayed treatment and improper treatment by emergency rooms is not a problem unique to any one state. Just recently, a Florida jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict after an emergency room department failed to timely treat a young man's life threatening condition that began with a debilitating headache. The young man waited in the emergency room for over five hours in excruciating pain before any medical care was provided. By the time doctors diagnosed him with a brain herniation, a side effect of high intracranial pressure, and sent him for surgery, it was too late. His family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital. The jury agreed with the family, finding the hospital was negligently in failing to timely diagnose and treat the man's brain herniation.

As many Americans can attest from personal experience, waiting in an emergency room to receive treatment often takes several hours. According to a 2005 study, the average emergency room wait time in Arizona was five hours. Iowa had among the shortest wait time at 2.3 hours. An inspection of Los Angeles area hospitals found that the average hospital was at 116% capacity. As these and other studies show, many US emergency rooms are overworked and understaffed. This is a recipe for needless medical mistakes, unnecessary deaths, and costly medical malpractice lawsuits.

Another reason for medical errors in emergency rooms is the large portion of residents, or doctors in training, who learn on the job while treating patients in emergency departments. Although residents are technically supervised by attending physicians, this does not always occur particularly when the emergency department is very busy. When inexperienced doctors are asked to provide urgent medical care in an overcrowded emergency room, some patients will receive substandard care which, unfortunately, can result in deadly medical mistakes.

Sources Used:

Wikipedia, Emergency Department, April 3, 2012.

Orlando Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog, Medical Malpractice In Hospital Emergency Department, November 29, 2011.

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