There are many causes of brain injury, including motor vehicle accidents, falls and being struck by an object. However, medical malpractice is another cause of brain injuries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that brain injury accounts for about 30 percent of all injury related deaths. When a doctor makes a mistake in the course of treating a patient, and their conduct falls below the accepted standard of care causing harm to their patient, it may be considered medical malpractice.
There are several types of circumstances in a medical setting that might lead to brain injury, including:
- Infections acquired during a surgical procedure
- Medication errors and overdoses
- Surgical errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to diagnose and treat signs of aneurysms, stroke or heart attack
- Failure to treat a patient in respiratory distress or breathing problems
- Birth injuries such as brachial plexus
In October 2015, a jury in Lane County, Oregon returned a $12.2 million verdict against the doctors and hospital responsible for the brain damage of a patient who was given 18 times the prescribed dose of medication after his heart rate became unstable following surgery. Lee Lyman, who was 56-years-old, was injured by a preventable medication error involving the heart drug amiodarone, and filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in 2013. Lyman, who has lost much of his ability to function, will require ongoing medical care for the rest of his life.
Brain injuries caused by oxygen deprivation
Preventable medical errors can include instances of oxygen deprivation, which can do severe harm to the brain and have lasting consequences in the patient’s life. Diminished oxygen supply to the brain can cause impairments in several bodily functions including cognitive, physical and psychological. Within minutes of the oxygen supply being cut off, damage begins to occur as sensitive brain cells begin to die off. Continued lack of oxygen can cause seizures, coma and brain death in the patient. The severity of the brain injury depends on how long the brain was deprived of oxygen.
The effects of oxygen deprivation to the brain can include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty forming words
- Lack of physical coordination
- Inability to perform basic functions
- Weakness in the arms and legs