For patients with late-stage kidney disease, there is no doubt that kidney dialysis can be, quite literally, a lifesaver. Dialysis extends the life of many patients until they are able to receive a needed kidney transplant. And although the process of receiving dialysis can be exhausting, most patients are grateful to have the option.
Fatigue is a typical side effect of dialysis, but if a physician or technician makes a mistake in ordering or administering treatment, the results can be much worse, including worsened disability, pain, or even death.
What kind of mistakes can be made in dialysis? Unfortunately, many. They include medication errors, such as a doctor who inadvertently orders the wrong type or amount of medication, or a technician who administers an overdose. Other potential errors include the reuse of dialysis equipment intended for single use or the improper sterilization of equipment, leading to infection. If the needles used in dialysis are used improperly, excessive blood loss or hemorrhage may result. And if technicians are not properly trained as to the use of a dialysis device, the patient can suffer pain or irreversible harm.
These and other dialysis mistakes often rise to the level of medical malpractice. Here's what you need to know about medical malpractice in dialysis cases.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, over 660,000 people in the United States are being treated for end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and over 468,000—nearly half a million—of those patients are on dialysis. There are about 6,500 dialysis facilities in the country, about ten percent of which are hospital-based.
There is no guarantee of safety at a hospital-based facility, but a higher risk of malpractice has been reported at some smaller, for-profit dialysis centers. It's not difficult to understand why. If a facility is intended to turn a profit, it is predictable that there will be an effort to cut costs and increase revenues, and that is indeed what happens at some for-profit centers.
Patients may receive treatment for a shorter period in order for the center to accommodate (and bill) more patients. Staff may receive less training in order to maximize their time dealing with patients and generating revenue. A dialysis facility may take a number of shortcuts that result in injury to patients, like failing to regularly inspect, maintain, or repair equipment, or that result in improper use.
As anyone who has ever received dialysis can attest to, it is a tedious process. Unfortunately, that can mean that technicians get bored, too. There can be a lot of "down time," in which staff do not need to be actively involved in a patient's treatment. Furthermore, the nature of the treatment itself tends to be repetitive and routine. As a result, staff may mentally "check out" and not be as mentally engaged in their work as they should be—a so-called "assembly line" mentality. Consequently, they may not monitor patients as closely as they ought to, so they may not notice a problem in time to prevent serious harm.
Of course, errors can happen in a hospital-based dialysis center, too, including failure to follow physician orders, or following an order for treatment that the technician knew or should have known was in error. Whether a mistake occurs in a free-standing or hospital-based center, at a for-profit or non-for-profit facility, dialysis patients should be able to expect safe and diligent treatment.
If you are on dialysis, much of your time and energy is already devoted to maintaining your health. If you were the victim of kidney dialysis malpractice, you may feel that holding your providers accountable for their mistakes will take more energy than you have available. That is understandable. However, you may be entitled to payment for the damages you have suffered, and you may find, down the road, that you and your family need that money. If you don't file a claim within a certain period of time, though, it may be too late.
If you work with an experienced Oregon medical malpractice law firm, we can manage your legal claim while you focus on your health issues. Because a large percentage of our practice centers on medical malpractice, including dialysis malpractice, we understand what you are going through. We will not encourage you to pursue a claim unless we believe it has merit, and we will be honest and straightforward throughout your case. If you have experienced injury as a result of kidney dialysis malpractice, we encourage you to contact our law office for a free, confidential initial consultation.
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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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