Defective Medical Devices - An Overview

Thanks to new medical technology, people are living longer than ever before, and diseases and conditions that were once untreatable are now being eradicated. There is a tool, implement, or apparatus for nearly every medical condition. Unfortunately, some defective medical devices are occasionally approved for use, and they can do more harm than good for the patients affected by them. It is important to know what your rights are as an American consumer and medical patient, and to be aware that during difficult times of medical distress, you must be knowledgeable about all the procedures that you undergo.

First, it is good to know what constitutes a medical device. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines it as any tool, implement, or apparatus that is involved in diagnosing, treating a condition or in surgery, but that is not chemical in nature. In other words, it is anything used by medical practitioners that is not medication.

You are probably familiar with hearing about faulty medications appearing on the market, and the lawsuits that result from them. Less notorious, but still important, are the cases of medical devices that prove to be harmful. Think of all the tools your doctor uses in treating you. Stethoscopes, tongue depressors, thermometers, needles, syringes, and so forth, are all perfectly safe the vast majority of the time, but all have the potential to be dangerous if used incorrectly or manufactured badly. However, the medical devices that are most likely to be defective are the more advanced, unusual things. Items such as pacemakers, artificial limbs, heart valves, artificial joints, surgical staplers, patient lifts and breast implants are highly complicated pieces of equipment. Medical malfunctions can occur because of a faulty design, or perhaps during use an unforeseen error happens. As the device is used more, and for different situations, a variety of side effects can arise.

Fortunately, usually things go well when you are in the hands of competent medical professionals using state-of-the-art equipment. But if you are having any medical procedures done, you should pay attention to which medical devices are used in the process, and note the after-effects you feel when it is all over. If you have had major surgery, your doctor will want to check up on you often to make sure everything has gone smoothly. If anything is amiss, you want to catch it before it advances too far, not just for your own safety but for legal reasons, too. Keeping quality notes and files on your medical procedures, can be beneficial if the FDA ever recalls any of the devices used on you. That documentation is also essential to winning legal cases, if you experience adverse effects as a result of a medical device.

Some people are hesitant to contact a lawyer when they have questions about defective medical devices. Often we tend to give our doctors the benefit of the doubt. That may be true in some cases, but if the medical device caused you harm, it might also be causing other people harm. Anther way to think of it is that sometimes it is the fault of the manufacturer and not your doctor. For instance, the design may have faults, and the perhaps they withheld important information to the FDA before its approval. Think of all the people who have not been affected yet, but who will be, if they are treated with the same device. Filing a lawsuit can sometimes be a warning to others to beware of dangers they had not realized existed.

If you think you have been harmed by a defective medical device, you should consult an attorney to see what your options are. The doctor might be liable, or it might be the company that made the device. Sometimes both are at fault. The only way everyone can be safe is if those who have had bad experiences make it known that there are dangers lurking. Nobody wants a lawsuit, but sometimes it is the only way to make careless medical device manufacturers sit up and take notice.