Serious Injury or Death: Medical Malpractice and Infection

Left untreated, infection can be deadly. How do you know you’ve gotten the appropriate care and whether any complications arising from infection fall under malpractice?

Malpractice can occur at any stage of the diagnostic process, including misdiagnosis, improper treatment, delay in treatment, or the prescription of medications. Infections can spread rapidly and can have lasting effects on the health and well being of the patient.

Healthcare workers can be considered negligent if they do not meet the standard of care.

Contracting Infections

One of the most prevalent ways patients can contract infection is through direct contact with an infected person or animal.

  • Person to person. Infectious diseases are commonly spread through the direct transfer of bacteria, viruses, or other germs from one person to another.
  • Animal to person. Infection can be transferred from animals to humans through contact, including animal bites or scratches.
  • Mother to unborn child. A pregnant woman may pass bacteria that cause infectious diseases to her unborn baby. A mother can transfer infection to her baby through the placenta, during birth, through contact with bacteria in the vagina, and after birth through breast milk.

Tests Used to Diagnose Infection

If a physician suspects a patient may be suffering from an infection there are three different types of tests that could be performed to determine which kind of infection is present and inform the physician of the necessary treatment.

  • Laboratory tests: Samples of the patient’s body fluids are examined in laboratory tests, including blood, urine, throat swabs, stool samples, or in extreme cases, a spinal tap.
  • Imaging scans: Imaging procedures, including X-rays, computerized tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging, can be used to make a diagnosis.
  • Biopsies: A biopsy entails the physician taking a very small sample of tissue from an internal organ for testing.

Hospital Infections

Many people go to the hospital to seek treatment for their previously sustained infections. However, hospitals are unfortunately also a common place to contract infection. Some of the most dangerous hospital infections are superbugs. Superbugs are infections which are very difficult to treat. In an environment that encourages a rapid spread of disease from patient to patient, these infections have evolved to be resistant to current antibiotics.

Superbugs are known by names such as:

Considering these infections are incredibly damaging and even deadly, if treatment is delayed or improperly executed, healthcare workers can be held liable for failing to protect patients from infection or failing to treat the infection in a timely manner.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Infections

Even when using standard medical testing, there are frequently misdiagnosed infections. This is due to the wide range of infections, from fungal to meningitis. The danger of misdiagnosing infections is delay in treatment. Some of these infections are incredibly fast moving and any delay in treatment can have disastrous lasting effects.

These infections include, but are not limited to:

  • Meningitis
  • Sepsis
  • Fungal infections
  • Post-surgical infections

Many infections are identifiable with common blood work. Unfortunately, even when the physician orders the correct tests, the results can be misread, ignored, or lost. Not ordering the tests and failing to act on the results are common factors in infection misdiagnosis cases. Surgical site infections may be caused by wound site contamination caused by the failure of the surgeon to follow correct disinfectant procedures.

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