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What Is a Medical Error of Omission?

Published on Jun 17, 2022 at 5:26 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Much like any professional in their field, you expect your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and any other medical team members to do everything reasonably within their command to ensure you get the best possible care.

In the case of physicians, this means that you should receive a timely and accurate diagnosis and be clearly advised of treatment options available to you. It also means that you should expect a nurse assisting a surgeon to notify them of changes in vitals and if it appears surgical tools aren’t accounted for. Nurses also have an obligation to administer medication per the doctor’s instructions.

Any instance in which a member of your healthcare team, as described above, fails to uphold their responsibility to safeguard your well-being may rise to the level of a medical error. There are two types of medical errors: medical errors of omission and commission. We’ll sort out the differences between the two below. We’ll also address what options you have if you fall victim to one of these.

How Do Medical Errors of Omission and Commission Differ?

Both types of medical errors, omission and commission, occur regularly. Factors that distinguish the two include:

Medical Errors of Omission

A medical error of omission is when a physician or other healthcare professional doesn’t handle a medical incident in alignment with the way other providers with like training in a similar geographic setting would. This concept is sometimes described as a medical provider not acting in a reasonably prudent manner.

Some examples of medical errors of omission include a doctor’s failure to:

  • Thoroughly evaluate a patient
  • Tell a patient about a vaccine that might save their life
  • Order necessary imaging, blood work, or any diagnostic testing to reach a diagnosis
  • Perform a necessary procedure or operate on a patient
  • Prescribe drugs that are critical to stabilize a patient or improve their condition

As you’ll note, the common element here is a doctor’s neglect to do something that could have spared a patient from experiencing further health declines, permanent impairments, or death.

Medical Errors of Commission

A medical error of commission involves healthcare providers taking some kind of affirmative action that changed the patient’s outcome. Some examples of this include medical providers:

  • Not carrying out a surgical procedure correctly
  • Giving patients the wrong medication or dosage

The common element here is that a medical provider provides a certain treatment option. Yet, they do so in a way that deviates from what the treating physician ordered or carried out a surgery, for example, differently from how other doctors would have done so.

Is a Medical Error of Omission a Type of Medical Malpractice?

Both medical errors of commission and omission would constitute medical malpractice. In fact, any instance in which a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare team member fails to use their training to adequately treat a patient could rise to the level of medical malpractice.

It’s important to note that not every situation in which an adverse event occurs warrants you filing a medical malpractice claim. You must be able to prove liability to do so.

Proving Liability in Medical Error of Omission Cases

There are generally four elements that you must prove to be successful in filing (and winning) any medical malpractice claim:

  1. That a doctor-patient relationship existed: You must show that a doctor-patient relationship existed because that clarifies that your physician owed you a “duty of care.” You can often use medical records and bills to substantiate that such a relationship existed.
  2. That a healthcare provider was somehow negligent: Establishing this could entail you proving that your healthcare provider didn’t act in alignment with how another would have. Establishing negligence in a medical error of omission case involves pinpointing steps that should have occurred in treating you but didn’t.
  3. A medical provider’s negligence caused you harm: You must establish a connection between your injury and your healthcare provider’s negligence.
  4. You suffered compensable losses: You must be able to show that the injury or illness you suffered resulting from a healthcare provider’s error of omission caused you either noneconomic or economic losses. Some examples of the former may be pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of enjoyment of life. Economic losses may account for expenses such as medical bills and lost wages.

It’s also key to prove that you have a compensable injury resulting from the negligence that occurred.

Kentucky has filing requirements in place that apply to different cases, including medical malpractice ones. Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.140(1)(e) gives you just one year to file a claim from the onset of your injury. You may forever lose your ability to hold a negligent party liable if you don’t file suit within this amount of time.

What Role Might an Attorney Serve in Your Medical Error of Omission Case?

Proving that a healthcare provider committed some kind of error is sometimes straightforward. In most other cases, it requires someone with a trained eye to recognize such mistakes to see where mistakes happened.

Any attorney that you may opt to work with should not only have years of experience in combing through medical records for potential errors in judgment themselves. Our firm’s lawyers are also backed by doctors and other medical professionals whom they closely work with who can shed light on standard of care issues breaches. Accessibility to these health care professionals is key when liability isn’t initially clear.

You shouldn’t have to live with the consequences of a negligent healthcare team member’s actions. Our Kentucky legal system affords us the right to file a civil legal claim in medical errors of omission cases. Schedule a risk-free case evaluation so that our Golden Law Office attorneys can spell out what that means for you and your Lexington case.

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