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When Negligence in the ER Leads to Wrongful Death

According to a report in the Washington Post, medical malpractice is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Errors performed by those in the medical profession claim an astounding 251,000 lives each year, surpassing deaths caused by Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and accidents. Some of these deaths occur because of sub-par treatment patients received in the emergency room.

Known for being chaotic and stressful, emergency rooms are where the sick and injured turn when they need help in a hurry. Unfortunately for them, their chances of becoming even more ill from the treatment they receive—or are denied—are relatively high. And in extreme circumstances, negligence on the behalf of doctors and nurses can end in wrongful death for the patient.

Negligence in the Emergency Room

In order to prove that your loved one died in the emergency room as a result of someone’s negligence, you’ll need the help of an Austin wrongful death attorney. He will attempt to prove that the ER staff committed medical malpractice, and in order to do that, he must show that negligence occurred. The attorney must prove that a competent doctor under the same circumstances would not have made the same mistake that caused the death of the loved one. Because the emergency room is a highly-stressful environment that doesn’t typically allow doctors to make calm and rational decisions—and the law takes that into consideration—the mistake must be fairly severe to be considered negligent.

Causes of Wrongful Death in the ER

From administering the wrong medication to making improper diagnoses, doctors and nurses make a variety of mistakes that can make a hospital liable for wrongful death. If your loved one died in the emergency room, it may be due to one of these common acts of negligence:

  • Patient dumping. This illegal and unethical act occurs when a patient is denied medical treatment because he doesn’t have insurance or insurance that is accepted by that hospital. This type of denial of treatment can cause the patient to die because he wasn’t given the proper medical care. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, any hospital that receives Medicare funding—and most do—cannot turn a patient away for lack of insurance coverage. The hospital is obligated to at least stabilize the patient. Additionally, the hospital must deliver the baby of a woman in active labor and stabilize the mother before they are sent to another hospital. If the hospital wrongly denied treatment to a patient and that patient subsequently died because of the denial, the hospital may be found guilty of wrongful death.
  • Delayed treatment. Emergency rooms “triage” patients, meaning they prioritize them in order of importance, and see the most critical first. However, a patient who seems stable can decline rather quickly and die unless given immediate treatment. If a doctor or nurse correctly diagnoses the patient, but then doesn’t provide treatment in an efficient amount of time, or forgets about the patient and he dies as a result, the hospital may be found negligent.
  • Substandard treatment. As the name implies, substandard treatment refers to treatment that is below what is expected. This also includes using unsterile equipment and improper administration of drugs.
  • Failure to properly monitor the patient. Patients can go from stable to critical in a second, which is why constant monitoring is necessary. If the hospital staff doesn’t provide the proper monitoring, especially when a patient shows signs of heart attack or stroke, and the patient dies as a result, it may be found guilty of wrongful death.
  • Failure to obtain adequate medical history. Not obtaining basic information about a patient, such as weight, height, age, known allergens, current medications, and even the time of the last meal, can lead to disaster if medications or anesthesia is administered.

Holding the ER Responsible for Negligence

If you believe that ER negligence is the cause of your loved one’s death, you may be able to make a claim against the hospital and staff. The wrongful death attorneys of Wayne Wright may be able to help. Schedule your consultation by calling 800.237.3334 and find out what we can do for you.