Medical Malpractice And Antibiotics

Medical Malpractice And Antibiotics

Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Antibiotics are implicated in medical malpractice litigation both when given where not needed and not given when needed. I discuss some of these situations here.  Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria. They have no effect on viruses. Much literature has been devoted to the overuse of antibiotics to treat presumed viral illnesses. This has led to the development of “superbugs” against which many antibiotics are not effective.  Doctors frequently complain that if they don’t prescribe antibiotics, even when the patient is likely infected with a viral illness, the patient will just go to the doctor up the street. This rationale is not supported by science or medical ethics.

Antibiotics are not without risk.  These medications can lead to deadly complications, such as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and C. Diff. Infections. When antibiotics are prescribed, despite no clear indication, and a life-threatening complication or fatality occurs, a case for medical negligence can be made.

In other situations, antibiotics should be given but are not.  When this occurs, the results can be deadly.  Generally, left unchecked, infections progress along a “sepsis continuum” with worsening prognosis as more bacteria grow inside the untreated patient. A primary infection can advance from a simple, localized infection to sepsis.  Sepsis is a condition where the body mounts a systemic inflammatory response to an infection. The signs of sepsis might include fever, elevated white blood count, tachycardia (fast pulse) and/or tachypnea (rapid breathing or shortness of breath).  As the bacteria count continually doubles every few hours, the body’s response to the toxic bacteria intensifies, leading to septic shock.  Septic shock means that the body’s blood pressure falls to a point where there is not adequate blood flow to bring the oxygen and nutrients needed to sustain the function of vital end organs. The brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, brain, and heart begin to fail.  Left untreated, septic shock will result in multi-system organ failure and, ultimately, death.  

A delay in treating an infection can lead to death in this manner. Treatment of a systemic bacterial infection involves antibiotics. There are various types of antibiotics. Cultures are needed to determine the type of bacteria and which antibiotics it is sensitive to. Using the wrong antibiotic can lead to failure of therapy.  In addition to medicine, treatment frequently requires “source control,” meaning eradication of the source of the infection.  So, if the infection is a spinal epidural abscess, draining and decompression of the spinal canal is required.  If the source of the infection is a perforated bowel, source control is achieved by opening the abdomen, cleaning out spilled contents of the bowel and repairing the bowel.

Delays in treatment can lead to severe injuries, including amputation, brain injury, and death. A medical malpractice lawyer will carefully review medical records to determine if there was a missed diagnosis, a negligent delay in diagnosis, a negligent delay in treatment, or the wrong, or inadequate treatment was given.