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Even in Life-or-Death Trauma Situations, Doctors Must Follow Established Procedure

Most medical malpractice in trauma emergencies can be avoided when doctors follow three simple initial steps, according to American Medical Experts. When an injured person is urgently brought to the emergency room for trauma care, responsible doctors first check airway protection, next establish breathing via Ambu-bag or ventilator and finally provide circulation to the patient. Doctors have nicknamed this protocol the ABCs for easy remembrance: Airway, Breathing, Circulation.

Inexperienced doctors may forget these simple steps, focusing on the trauma instead of the patient. For example, when a patient is ambulanced in with a gunshot wound to the chest, an anxious doctor might immediately start treating the wound. However, forgetting the essential initial steps can cause the patient death or serious brain injury, making the urgency of the wound far less concerning, especially given the relatively small amount of time it takes to complete those first steps.

The trauma care protocol has been developed in part by the U.S. military, based on treating years of battlefield injuries. The United States Army Surgical Research Institute has established trauma protocols in conjunction with the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma. The groups established specific trauma guidelines using advanced trauma life support. Over the past 10 years of studying trauma in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has established a standard called Tactical Combat Casualty Care, the goal of which is to improve patient survival and minimize associated trauma complications, i.e. sepsis, loss of limb function and deconditioning. These techniques have been adapted for civilian trauma care.

Some victims of medical malpractice may be reluctant to bring a claim if they were harmed by doctors during an emergency life-or-death situation. They may think that because of the hectic emergency room and critical nature of their initial injury, those circumstances somehow excuse the mistake. But this recently published article, written by the people in the medical community, shows that in certain instances improper care while being treated for trauma can be medical malpractice. Failure to follow these “standards of care,” which are peer reviewed and based on a large volume of patient care and have been adopted by surgical societies, is likely medical malpractice, according to the article.