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Death in the Emergency Room: Is it Medical Malpractice?

No one wants to go to the emergency room. Some of us go to the emergency room because we have symptoms that can’t wait for the doctor’s office to open. Others go to the emergency room because it is their only access to medical care. And sometimes we go because we have true emergencies.

Although we think of emergency rooms as providing urgent medical treatment, patients in Illinois emergency rooms are rarely seen right away. The average wait time in an Illinois emergency room is 260 minutes—almost four and a half hours! Waiting times in the Chicago area are even longer.

One reason for long waits is the large number of patients who seek emergency room treatment. People go to the emergency room treatment for everything from headaches and sore throats to heart attacks and gunshot wounds. Emergency rooms do their best to see the most seriously ill or injured patients first.

The system of prioritizing patients is called triage. When you visit an Illinois emergency room, a nurse will take your vital signs and ask a series of questions in order to determine how long you can wait for treatment. This system is supposed to make sure that everyone who visits the emergency room receives the appropriate tests and timely treatment for their condition.

Sometimes, though, things go wrong.

Top Five Emergency Room Mistakes in Illinois

  1. A patient is left to wait too long. The lack of treatment results in worsening of the condition, permanent disability, or death.
     
  2. The emergency room doctor misjudges the severity of a condition and sends the patient home instead of admitting him to the hospital.
     
  3. The emergency room doctor fails to diagnose a serious medical condition such as a heart attack or stroke.
     
  4. The emergency room doctor fails to order the tests necessary to diagnose a condition, such as an EKG, CT scan, or x-ray.
     
  5. The nurse gives a patient the wrong medication or a medication that is contraindicated.
     

Sometimes these errors are the result of understaffing. Busy, overworked, and tired doctors and nurses are more likely to make mistakes and more likely to overlook serious injuries. However, a full emergency room is no excuse for lack of medical care.

Emergency rooms, like all medical providers, have a duty to provide appropriate medical care. Medical providers who fail to meet this duty are negligent. When negligence causes injury, an emergency room may be found guilty of medical malpractice.

If you or your loved one has been the victim of emergency room error in Illinois, you may be eligible for compensation for current and future medical bills, loss of wages, long-term care, pain and suffering, burial expenses and more. To learn more about Illinois emergency room error claims, please contact the Rockford medical malpractice attorneys at Hupy and Abraham. Call us at 800-390-6350 and ask to schedule a free consultation.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham