There are many ways in which brain injuries can be caused. A person can obtain a brain injury from a tragic car accident. A person could have suffered a gunshot wound and as a result acquired a brain injury. A person could have taken a traumatic fall and acquired a brain injury as a result. There is a difference, however, when a person suffers a brain injury due to the negligent actions of a medical professional. That brain injury would be the result of medical malpractice.
What is the definition of medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is an act of negligence on the part of a medical professional. For medical malpractice to occur, the medical professional’s actions must have failed to meet the medical standard of care established by the medical industry. An example of medical malpractice would be a doctor improperly using a vacuum extractor or forceps during a child’s birth. As a result, the baby’s skull was fractured, resulting in a physical brain injury that has long-term repercussions for the child.
Understanding the ways brain injuries are categorized
The types of brain injuries patients obtain through medical malpractice are categorized as acquired brain injuries. Acquired brain injuries are injuries that are not hereditary, congenital, or degenerative. Acquired brain injuries can fall into two categories: Traumatic and Non-traumatic.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
A traumatic brain injury is an injury that is caused by an external factor. If a person suffered a blow to the head, experienced penetration of a foreign object, or a baby was shaken, that would be an example of a traumatic brain injury. Some examples of traumatic brain injuries include a concussion and diffuse axonal injury. Our earlier example of the doctor who misused forceps is one of traumatic brain injury.
Non-traumatic brain injury
At Paulson & Nace, we do not believe any brain injury is “non-traumatic,” because all damage to the brain is traumatic. However, the term “non-traumatic brain injury” is a medical term, albeit a misnomer, to describe a brain injury that is caused by internal factors. A brain injury as a result of a tumor, an untreated infection, or lack of oxygen would be classified as a “non-traumatic” brain injury.
Common acts of medical malpractice that cause brain injuries
Several scenarios can go wrong when a medical professional fails to administer anesthesia to a patient. Some examples of anesthesia errors that can result in a brain injury for a patient include:
- Dosage errors. If a medical professional administers too much anesthesia to the patient, the patient can either stop breathing or suffer a heart attack. Both of these scenarios can cause an interruption of oxygen flowing to the brain. Too little anesthesia can cause a body to go into shock.
- Failure to properly monitor the patient while under anesthesia. This error can result in delaying the discovery of the problem until the damage is done and brain injury is permanent.
- Failure to administer a steady flow of oxygen in the right concentration for the patient to breathe while he or she is under anesthesia. Without the proper flow of oxygen flowing into the brain, injury is likely to occur.
Errors with the administration of medication
Medication errors can be deadly. The wrong meds can trigger seizures, heart arrhythmias, and allergic reactions, all of which can disrupt the flow of oxygen to the brain.
Any mistakes made during surgery can affect oxygen flow, but mistakes made during brain surgery can cause blood clots, permanent scarring, or other life-altering injuries.
Failure to diagnose
If a medical professional fails to diagnose a potential infection or injury and it gets worse, misreads test results, fails to take an accurate medical history, or diagnoses a brain injury as something other than what it is, the TBI victim’s injury or illness could get much worse.
Effects of brain injuries caused by medical malpractice
Depending on the nature of the injury and the extent of damage that occurs in the brain, traumatic brain injuries can be detrimental for the patient and the patient’s loved ones. The brain injury can be so severe that it significantly impacts the patient’s ability to live their life. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), there are four main areas in a patient’s life that can be used to determine the effects of a brain injury:
- Thinking and memory: Memory and reasoning will begin to be trouble for patients who suffer from a brain injury.
- Sensations and balance: The patient has issues with balance, vision, hearing and other sensory experiences.
- Language and communication: The ability to communicate will be difficult for a patient with a brain injury. Patients may be unable to talk with others or have issues processing language.
- Emotions: Patients with a brain injury suffer from depression and/or behavioral issues. Acting out aggressively and engaging inappropriately with others are also common for patients with brain injuries.
Many people never fully recover from a brain injury. The effects of a brain injury due to medical malpractice can be either short-term or long-term. Some patients may need ongoing care, treatment, and supervision. Some patients may need to say goodbye to the life they lived prior to the brain injury. Whatever the case, medical professionals who engage in acts of medical malpractice must be held accountable.