The risk of sustaining an infection in a hospital or other medical facility can present tremendous challenges for a patient recovering from illness, surgery or a serious injury. In the same way that surgical errors, failures to diagnose and medication errors can lead to medical malpractice claims, negligence by physicians, nurses and other staff that causes serious infections can be the basis of legal action.
Concerned critical-care organizations, including the Surviving Sepsis Campaign (SSC), recently announced their collaboration to update health care guidelines for recognizing and treating sepsis, a potentially deadly condition that spreads rapidly throughout the body. A related development is a study funded by the National Institutes of Health to assess how specific types of medical interventions can head off cases of severe sepsis and septic shock.
Early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis, commonly known as blood poisoning, is the best way to prevent protracted illness and death. But delays in diagnosis can rapidly lead to complications, including loss of cognitive function. One major risk is development of sepsis in elderly patients who are prematurely discharged from convalescent care.
Of course, preventing the onset of sepsis in the first place is the best way to ensure patient safety. The SSC aims to reduce sepsis mortality by developing guidelines to improve diagnosis and post-ICU care. Yet there is no substitute for thorough observation of patients and responsive treatment.
When lax hygiene practices, ignorance of protocols or understaffing of facilities leads to infections that cause serious harm to patients, legal accountability is critical. Medical malpractice attorneys can help patients hold physicians and hospital administrators accountable for substandard health care practices that jeopardize a patient's prospects for recovery.