Wrongful Death Due to Physician Error
We’ve all heard stories about someone who seemed outwardly okay except for a minor complaint, but then suddenly died of a heart attack or stroke or cancer. Sometimes that just happens. It can be part of nature, and life-threatening medical conditions aren’t always visible on the surface.
But sometimes that person who went to see a doctor for what seemed like a minor complaint may have died because of medical negligence. We’ve all also heard stories about someone going in for a minor outpatient procedure that was supposed to have little risk and dying under the anesthetic, or finding out that he or she had cancer that a doctor didn’t catch when it’s too late for successful treatment.
A September 2013 article in the Journal of Patient Safety said as many as 400,000 people die every year in the United States because of medical errors that could have been prevented. When medical malpractice results in the death of the patient, the patient’s next of kin may have a wrongful death claim.
Common Forms of Medical Malpractice
Generally speaking, malpractice happens when a doctor doesn’t meet the standard of care for his or her field of practice and the patient’s medical condition and the patient suffers some harm. There are any number of ways that a patient might get inadequate treatment because of the negligence of a medical provider, including:
- Failure to Diagnose an Illness or Disease — Missing the signs and symptoms of a medical condition can mean serious illness or death for the patient, depending on the underlying condition.
- Failure to Treat an Illness or Disease — Making a diagnosis but then not following through with appropriate treatment, which might include prescribing medications or referring the patient to a specialist.
- Delay in Treatment of an Illness or Disease — Waiting too long to treat a diagnosed medical condition can mean the person becomes much more sick, or passes the point where treatment could have worked.
- Mistreatment of an Illness or Disease — Prescribing the wrong treatment for a medical condition may lead to worsening of the illness or disease being treated in addition to the potential that the incorrect treatment itself may injure or sicken the patient.
- Prescribing the Wrong Medication or Dose — When a person gets a prescription drug that doesn’t treat his or her medical condition, the drug may make the person sick and the underlying medical condition may get worse. Likewise the wrong dose of a drug can make a person sick or even be fatal.
- Errors During Surgery or Medical Procedures — A mistake during a medical procedure could result in perforations, internal bleeding, infections, cardiac arrest, or brain death.
- Misinterpretation of Tests — When a doctor fails to read tests correctly, he or she is much more likely to fail to diagnose the illness or to incorrectly diagnose it.
- Failure to Follow Infection Control Procedures — Infections can be deadly, but are preventable through proper hygiene and sterilization of medical equipment and rooms where exams or procedures are performed.
- Lack of Informed Consent — When a medical provider fails to explain the risks of a procedure or treatment.
Making a Wrongful Death Claim
When a loved one dies because of medical malpractice, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. In Illinois, you may be able to seek compensation under the Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180, and/or the Survival Act, 755 ILCS 5/27-6.
The Wrongful Death Act allows for a next of kin who is usually a surviving spouse or child to seek compensation for the loss of economic support experienced because of your family member’s death, as well as your grief and loss of relationship with your family member.
The Survival Act allows for additional damages when your loved one’s death was not immediate. This law allows for compensation of your loved one’s medical bills and other personal injury damages he or she could have pursued if he or she had survived.
How a Lawyer Can Help
When a loved one dies because of medical negligence, complex medical and legal issues may be involved. A Chicago wrongful death lawyer with experience handling wrongful death and medical malpractice cases can help you navigate the intricacies of an investigation into your loved one’s death, building evidence of the malpractice, negotiating with medical malpractice insurance companies, and working to get you the best possible settlement or jury verdict.