Medical malpractice

Can Sepsis Be Considered as Medical Malpractice?

March 12, 2020 by James McHugh, Jr.
Worried patient in hospital bed

It is likely you may have heard the medical term “sepsis” before; however, you may be unclear of what it is and the potential dangers associated with it. Sepsis is considered common and occurs when the body tries to fight infection.

What is Sepsis?

The body has various ways of detecting and fighting illness and infection. One of the many ways the body can react to infection is by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream. According to the Mayo Clinic, sepsis occurs when the body’s response to the chemicals that have entered the bloodstream is out of balance. This imbalance, referred to as sepsis, can be life threating and cause major damage to internal organs. If left untreated, sepsis can lead to septic shock, which can be fatal.

Numerous scenarios – including physician and hospital negligence – can cause an infection that leads to sepsis or septic shock. If a patient undergoing surgery is exposed to unsanitary tools or if a physician leaves gauze or other surgical materials inside of a patient, a deadly infection could take place as a reaction to foreign materials in the body. The potential for deadly infections like sepsis necessitates physicians, surgical and hospital staff members always exercise proper hygiene habits, including properly sanitizing tools and hospital linens.

Symptoms of Sepsis

Many times patients will not know if a physician or health care worker made an error during surgery or treatment until they display signs of infection. Symptoms associated with sepsis include but are not limited to:

  • A high systolic (first or upper number in a blood pressure reading) pressure reading that’s less than or equal to 100 millimeters of mercury
  • Respiratory rate higher than or equal to 22 breaths per minute
  • Change in mental state

Septic shock has its own symptoms as well; and, in order to be diagnosed, a patient must have a confirmed infection and both of the following:

  • Need for medication to maintain a blood pressure reading greater than or equal to 65
  • High levels of lactic acid in the bloodstream after receiving adequate fluids to replace depleted levels, signaling the body’s cells are not utilizing oxygen properly.

Common Causes of Sepsis

Sepsis can easily occur when hospital and health care staff members are negligent on issues concerning patient health, as well as misdiagnosing sepsis in a patient, which can lead to septic shock if untreated. Known causes of sepsis include but are not limited to:

  • Unsanitary surgical tools, such as scalpels, gowns, gloves, etc.
  • Unsanitary intravenous lines exposing bacteria directly into the bloodstream
  • Bedsores from patients not being properly cared for and moved, which can lead to serious infection
  • Operation wounds and lack of post-procedure care to ensure the wound is clean
  • Infections left untreated due to misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment plan, or premature discharge from medical care
  • Foreign objects left in the body during surgery, such as gauze, leading to infection

Grounds for Malpractice

Because many cases of sepsis originate due to hospital negligence, they could potentially involve medical malpractice. Common forms of malpractice that can cause sepsis include:

  • Misdiagnosis of an infection in the patient
  • Premature discharge of a patient with an infection
  • Failure to treat an infection
  • Failure to properly sanitize and administer intravenous lines
  • Failure to administer proper antibiotics and fluids that can treat sepsis
  • Leaving foreign objects inside of a patient during surgery
  • Failure to inform the patient of an infection

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney

Sepsis and septic shock can be deadly if left untreated, as well as cause unnecessary pain and suffering for patients and their loved ones. If you or a loved one contracted sepsis or went into septic shock due to hospital negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering endured, and more.  Contact us to discuss your options at no charge. Time limitations apply to your potential malpractice claims, so do not delay in contacting Lopez McHugh to get help with you hospital negligence claims and find out what your legal options are.

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