An intensive care unit, also known as an ICU, is a special hospital unit for seriously ill patients that requiring immediate and continuous attention from specially trained hospital personnel. Generally when we think of someone being in an ICU, we think they are in a really serious condition and receiving the best care they can possibly receive. Typically, this is true.
However, a disturbing study from John Hopkins University School of Medicine researched diagnosis errors in hospital ICUs. The study was expecting to find a need for some better patient care. But what they found was downright disturbing.
For almost every four patients who died in a hospital ICU, one of those patients suffered a misdiagnosis near the time of their death. Further—and even more shocking—the study found that there was an 8-percent chance that a diagnosis error was what caused or contributed to that death! Moreover, the study also found that ICU patients are actually victims of a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose more than fifty-percent of the time as other hospital patients. These statistics are horrifying!
Granted, most patients in an ICU are suffering from very complicated, deadly, and multiple injuries at the same time making it likely very difficult to assess the patient’s true ailment. The study found that most of these misdiagnoses were generally heart attacks, pneumonia, pulmonary embolisms, and a deadly fungal infection called aspergillosis; all of these accounting for one-third of the misdiagnoses.
Now the truly worst part? Most of these patients’ families cannot sue for New York medical malpractice or wrongful death. Why? Well, the issue lies in where the patient is—the ICU. To establish New York medical malpractice, not only must you prove the doctor had a duty and breached that duty, but you also would need to prove causation of the harm to the patient. Since most patients in the ICU are in serious condition, it is incredibly hard to prove that the patient died but for the doctor’s misdiagnosis. Thus, a doctor in the ICU can misdiagnose a patient and essentially be protected from liability just by the very nature of the patient’s condition.
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