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Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death

Medical malpractice is the result of a medical professional, a doctor, nurse, or other personnel making a mistake in the performance of their duties. Medical professional are held to what is known as a "standard of care." When they make a mistake, they are said to violate the standard of care owed to the patient and become liable for damage the patient suffers as a result of their error.

Doctors and nurses work in an environment where their actions or inactions can mean the difference between life and death. Hospitals, emergency rooms, and operating rooms all are hectic and busy, but because the consequences of errors are so great, society holds the doctors and nurses to a very high standard.

Examples of Medical Negligence

Physician error

A doctor may fail to diagnose an illness in sufficient time to treat it properly, or he or she may prescribe the wrong drug or fail to notice a life-threatening drug interaction. The doctor may fail to order the correct treatment or entirely misdiagnose an illness.

Birth injury or obstetrician malpractice

A failure to recognize the signs of fetal distress or high blood pressure may indicate toxemia during pregnancy and could result in the death of the mother or child. Doctors may fail to order a C-section when necessary.

Cancer misdiagnosis

Cancer may not be diagnosed properly due to lack of physician attention or experience or due to laboratory error, potentially allowing it to spread and become more invasive or difficult to treat.

Nursing home negligence

Nursing homes may be understaffed, causing dangerous consequences for patients, from overworked staff dispensing the wrong drugs to not having adequate time to monitor patients' condition to outright failures to follow physicians' orders.

Surgical errors

Surgery always carries a risk, but that risk is unreasonably elevated by doctors leaving surgical instruments in body, mistakenly operating on wrong parts of the body. Infections, such as sepsis, can be caused by improper closing of surgical incisions. If a hospital over-schedules a surgeon, all of these errors become more likely, and the same applies for failing to supervise a new surgeon. Anesthesia errors or drug reactions may cause brain damage or increase the risk of death.

How Does Medical Negligence Result in Wrongful Death

Any of the above examples of medical malpractice can lead to death, either directly or by causing additional complications. A nurse administering the wrong drugs could lead to a severe reaction or no improvement to the condition being treated. Surgical instruments left in the body may lead to deadly infections. Cancer misdiagnosed could become fatal.

What Can Family Members Do?

Illinois Wrongful Death Act permits "next of kin" to maintain a lawsuit for damages. "Next of kin" in Illinois has been defined as blood relatives in existence at the time of the decedent's death who would take the decedent's personal property in the event the decedent died without a will. The family, spouse, children and grandchildren are the most frequent plaintiffs.

While money may seem an inadequate substitute for a deceased family member, compensation for the death a husband or parent can relieve the numerous issues that result from the loss of a family member.

Wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice are generally complex. Depending on the cause of the death, multiple experts may be called to testify, and the discovery and depositions may take many months.

If you suspect that a member of your family has died because of medical malpractice, speak with an attorney experienced with litigating wrongful death case. The attorney can examine your facts and help you determine if you have a viable case of medical malpractice.