What is Wrongful Death?
In Oklahoma, wrongful death is the death of an individual resulting from the wrongful act or omission of another person. In other words, wrongful death typically occurs when one person’s unjust actions or carelessness results in the death of another. Typically, if the person who died (the decedent) had lived and had legal grounds to file a personal injury claim, their death is considered wrongful. Medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of wrongful death.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse, hospital, or similar medical professional or facility fails to uphold what is known as the “standard of care” owed to any patient. The standard of care refers to the level of care any patient can reasonably expect from a qualified medical professional or facility in their specific circumstances. When medical professionals or facilities fail to uphold the standard of care, patients are at risk of severe health complications, injuries, and even death; thus, these complications, injuries, and death are the direct result of medical malpractice.
6 Common Causes of Medical Malpractice
The following are examples of preventable errors and negligence resulting in both medical malpractice and wrongful death:
Misdiagnosis occurs when a patient is diagnosed by a medical professional with a condition they do not have. For example, during a physical, a female patient’s doctor finds that she has a lump in her breast. After determining whether the lump is cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign), the doctor diagnoses the patient as having a benign tumor with nothing to worry about. If the tumor is actually cancerous and the patient cannot obtain proper medical treatment, this medical malpractice scenario can quickly result in wrongful death.
Missed diagnosis occurs when a medical professional fails to diagnose a patient’s medical condition, resulting in little to no treatment. For example, during a physical, a female patient’s doctor fails to notice that she has a noticeable lump in her breast. As a result of this missed diagnosis, neither the doctor nor the patient realizes that she has cancer, resulting in her being unable to obtain the proper course of treatment.
Surgery-related errors can occur during and after surgery. During surgery, errors and eventual death can occur if the patient is given the incorrect amount of anesthesia, the surgeon operates on the wrong body part, or accidentally leaves medical equipment in a patient’s body or after the surgery.
After surgery, medical malpractice and wrongful death can result from improper aftercare, such as failure to monitor the patient, premature discharge, or a lack of aftercare instructions to ensure the safe and proper healing of the patient.
Medication errors can occur when prescriptions are improperly prescribed, filled, or labeled by a doctor or when medications are improperly administered to patients directly. Medication errors often result in adverse patient outcomes and can lead to death.
Birth injuries are sustained by either the mother or child(ren) during birth. Birth injuries differ from birth defects because they result from medical malpractice, negligence, or error, not non-medical factors such as genetics. Birth injuries occur when an obstetrician, delivery room doctor, midwife, or other medical professional makes a mistake that harms an infant or the mother.
An example of an infant-related birth injury is oxygen deprivation. An infant that is oxygen-deprived before, during, or immediately after childbirth can suffer extensive brain damage or even death. An example of a mother-related birth injury is a uterine rupture, in which the uterus tears during delivery and can result in the death of both the mother and infant(s).
Hospital negligence can take many forms and is not limited to any department. Other types of errors or negligence, such as medication errors, failure to obtain informed consent, failure to appropriately triage, and patient injury while staying in the hospital, often fall under hospital negligence. These scenarios often lead to patient injury or even death.
Proving Medical Malpractice
Although relatively common, medical malpractice cases are often complex and can be challenging to prove.
The following conditions must be proven to exist for a case to be considered medical malpractice in the state of Oklahoma:
- Duty of Care: the medical professional(s) or medical facility in question owed a duty of care to the patient.
- Standard of Care: the standard of care owed to the patients for their specific circumstances must be established.
- Breach of Standard of Care: once the standard of care is established, it needs to be proven that the medical provider(s) or medical facility failed to meet the standard of care, whether through error, negligence, or misconduct.
- Injury: the patient must prove that they sustained an injury or suffered measurable harm.
- Causation: the injury or harm sustained by a patient must be proven to be caused by a breach of the standard of care.
In medical malpractice wrongful death cases, the injuries the patient sustained would include death. In Oklahoma, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is the only individual who will be able to bring forth and pursue a wrongful death case.
How Brewster & De Angelis Can Help Your Family
Knowing that your loved one’s death resulted from a preventable medical error can be devastating. Brewster & De Angelis is ready to assist you with every aspect of your legal claim if your loved one experienced a wrongful death due to medical malpractice. We work with expert witnesses, medical professionals, and other specialists who help us put together powerful cases for our clients.
Let our team handle the communication with the liable party and/or insurance company so you and your family can focus on healing.
Call our firm today at (918) 265-1214 for a free consultation or fill out this short form.