When Hospital-Acquired Staph Infections Are Grounds for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Staph infections are a common occurrence in hospitals, especially among surgical, immune-suppressed, or elderly patients who are at high risk of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in 25 hospitalized individuals develop an infection after a hospital stay.

Although a staph infection isn’t always preventable, it often is. Therefore, if you acquire a staph infection during a hospital stay, you may have grounds to file a medical malpractice suit against the doctor or hospital.

Negligent Behavior

For your infection to be considered a hospital-acquired infection, you must not have had the infection prior to hospitalization. Also, the infection must not be caused directly by the medical issue that put you in the hospital.

To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must prove that you developed a staph infection due to negligent behavior on the part of the hospital. In other words, you must show that the infection was preventable.

You increase the chances of winning your lawsuit if your attorney can establish what specific organism caused your infection. It also helps if an expert gives testimony that shows the infection you acquired is more likely to spread when medical staff fail to follow proper sterilization and infection control methods.

Infection Control

When you are sick or have undergone a surgical or other medical procedure, you are more likely to develop an infection that certain germs can cause. To decrease the risk of infection, a hospital and its medical staff must follow rigorous guidelines to prevent infection.

A medical facility and the personnel working there are responsible for following sterilization protocol, including sterilization of medical instruments and equipment, linens, towels, and medical garments. Floors and other hard surfaces, such as tray tables and bed rails, must be cleaned daily with a disinfectant that fights bacteria.

Additional Evidence

A proper standard of care requires that medical personnel wash their hands any time they interact with you. While proper hand washing remains the first line of defense against hospital-acquired infections, not all healthcare workers comply with hand washing protocol as often as they should. In fact, the CDC reports that on average, healthcare providers only wash their hands about half of the times that they should.

Inform your attorney about any instances when you weren’t certain whether a health care worker entering your room washed or sanitized his or her hands before and/or after providing care.

Informed Consent

To hold the hospital responsible for a staph infection you develop, you need sufficient evidence to prove negligence. However, if you assumed the risk of the infection by giving your informed consent, you may not have a claim.

Before making decisions about your healthcare, a doctor or other health care professional is responsible for explaining the procedure or treatment and the reason for it. He or she should discuss with you both the risks and benefits involved and other alternative treatments that may help alleviate or improve your symptoms.

The doctors treating you must give you the option of declining surgery or other treatment that may increase your risk of infection or other complications. Without informed consent, a doctor or hospital is liable for a medical malpractice suit. Therefore, do not sign a written consent form until you’ve had all your questions answered.

Failure to Diagnose

Even if you don’t hold the hospital responsible, you still may have a case if medical staff failed to diagnose or treat a staph infection before it worsened. While many staph infections are minor, an infection can become serious if you already have a weakened immune system.

If an infection spreads to the blood or organs, such as the heart or lungs, it can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening complications. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection) is a type of staph infection that can be particularly serious since it is resistant to many of the broad-spectrum antibiotics that doctors use to treat other staph infections.

The symptoms of MRSA vary and can mimic other, less serious infections that are generally treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics, including penicillin derivatives, which are ineffective against MRSA. To diagnose MRSA, doctors often rely on a tissue sample from the infection site to identify the bacteria, which usually takes 48-hours to return results. During that time, the infection can spread and get worse, which is why it’s important to quickly diagnose the infection.

Unbiased Medical Opinion

To bring a successful lawsuit against the hospital or doctor from which you received medical care, your attorney needs to establish the provider’s liability. In building a case for the misdiagnosis or delayed treatment of an infection, your attorney may solicit the opinion of a neutral medical expert.

An unbiased third-party physician will carefully assess the treatment you received. If he or she finds that the provider failed to comply with the appropriate medical standard of care, you may have sufficient evidence to prove medical negligence.

If you feel your health was compromised due to a hospital-acquired infection that may have been preventable, contact Shay & Associates to discuss whether you have a case for a malpractice claim.

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