In this article we're going to try to differentiate between an error and an accident when applied to malpractice.The first thing that needs to be said here is that this is not an exact science. That is why we have courts of law. That's why when something goes wrong with a procedure or operation it is not immediately determinable whether it is malpractice or not.This article is going to get a little philosophical based on the beliefs and opinions of professionals and experts in the field of law and medicine.
These are only beliefs and opinions and are not meant to be taken as facts. Again, if this was all fact then determining malpractice would be very easy to do. It is not.
An error is defined by the experts in the field as "the failure to perform an intended action which would have been the correct action, given the circumstances." In other words, if the diagnosis calls for administering a shot of penicillin to a patient and the shot is not administered then that would be considered to be an error. It was clear that the shot should have been given and it wasn't.
An accident, on the other hand, according to the experts, is something that is unplanned and unforeseen. Usually an unexpected event that produces an adverse outcome.Here is where we get into that gray area and why we need lawyers.
An adverse outcome after committing an error, by this definition, must be considered an accident since nobody plans to make an error, no one expects an error and no one has any desire for an error. Yet, errors still occur which produce the accident. It is up to the courts to basically decide if the error was an "honest error," something that could happen to even a professional in the field, or an error that should have never happened if the procedure was performed by someone who was trained in the field. Yes, a very gray area.There are, to make this even more complicated, many types of errors.There are input errors or errors of misconception.
This is where a wrong diagnosis is made and based on this diagnosis the wrong action is performed. An example would be when a diagnosis is made to remove an organ but later it was determined that the organ was healthy and didn't need removal.Then there are intention errors or mistakes.
This is where the diagnosis is correct but the wrong action is performed. An example would be that a diagnosis is made to give someone 1000 mg of some drug. The diagnosis is correct but by mistake the wrong dose is given and an overdose occurs.Then there is an execution error. This is where the diagnosis is correct and the right action is performed but the action is performed incorrectly.
Given the same above example, 1000 mg is given but it is given through a Y port instead of through a drip bag, which it should have been given through. Again, a fatal overdose occurs even though the right amount of solution is given. These errors are then further divided into errors caused by the doctor's own distraction or lack of concentration and errors caused by outside surroundings, such as the operating room maybe not being set up properly with equipment out of place.In our next article we're going to discuss how to talk about these errors and evaluate them..
Your Independent guide to Malpractice
By: Michael Russell