You go to the hospital to get better from a serious illness, not to get one. Yet one of the most frequent causes of death in hospitals is infection acquired in the hospital. Of the nearly two million patients who acquire such an infection, nearly one hundred thousand will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those who survive are likely to have a more complicated recovery from the condition that put them in the hospital in the first place.
Possibly the infection with which the public is most familiar is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA. Over the last fifteen years, MRSA has seen a meteoric rise in American hospitals. It's a significant issue because it does not respond to the antibiotics that are typically used with success to treat staph infections.
While many staph infections are themselves minor, they can weaken the immune system, causing a patient to become seriously ill from another infection that might otherwise not have been an issue. If pneumonia results, as it often does, the staph infection may get into the lungs and become life-threatening. Sometimes these and other infections are the result of medical malpractice.
Of course, not every infection acquired in a hospital is the result of hospital negligence or malpractice on the part of a doctor or nurse. That said, there are some situations in which, had medical professionals taken different actions, patients would not have become infected.
One such circumstance is a failure to properly disinfect or sterilize medical instruments, clothing or linens, surfaces, or the hands of staff. Hospitals have sterilization and disinfection protocols; if these are not followed, and a staph or other infection (such as C. difficile) results, the patient may have a malpractice claim
Other situations that may lead to a successful malpractice claim include surgical neglect, as surgical patients are at an especially high risk of infection. These infections may result from debris or shed blood coming in contact with an incision or wound or inadequate blood supply to tissue. In some cases, a sponge or gauze inadvertently left in the surgical field becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
Even if a hospital is not liable for the initial infection acquired, failure to timely diagnose and treat the infection may be grounds for a medical malpractice case if a reasonable doctor would have identified and treated the infection.
Some procedures pose a high risk of infection for certain patients. If provided with accurate risk information, some patients might opt not to have the procedure. If a procedure is performed in the absence of informed consent, a hospital may be liable for damages if the patient acquires an infection.
Believing, or even knowing, that your hospital-acquired infection was caused by negligence is one thing; proving it in court is another entirely. You will need an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney who is skilled at "connecting the dots" in such a way that a judge or jury can see the connection between the hospital's practices, your acquisition of an infection, and the harm to you that resulted.
The testimony of a patient and/or other witnesses can be important, but the most successful cases involve expert witnesses who can help demonstrate a strong link between the hospital or doctor's action (or inaction) and the infection and its aftermath. Attorneys who regularly practice in the area of medical malpractice will have access to knowledgeable, trustworthy experts who can bolster the strength of your case.
If you suspect that you acquired a staph or other infection in the hospital due to the negligence of the facility or staff, we invite you to contact Huegli Fraser PC for a free, confidential initial consultation. We serve clients in the Portland, Oregon area and throughout the state, and we look forward to answering your questions.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
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