A bacterial infection that goes by the medical name of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or “MRSA” is responsible for an increasing number of deaths and permanent disfigurements and injuries. MRSA is a form of a staph infection, but unlike those infections, MRSA cannot be remedied by standard anti-microbial medicines like penicillin. Professional sports teams, workout centers, and other public facilities have experienced MRSA outbreaks, but hospitals and medical centers are at the core of MRSA infections. A person who has contracted MRSA while receiving medical treatment may have a cause of action for medical negligence against the medical facility and the physicians and caregivers who are responsible for his or her exposure to MRSA.
Negligence Liability for MRSA Infections
Traditional medical negligence flows from a doctor or caregiver’s error, such as leaving a foreign object in a body cavity or failing to diagnose a disease correctly. Negligence lawsuits involving MRSA lawsuits will have a more subtle fact pattern. An individual with an already-compromised immune system, such as the elderly or HIV-infected patients, transplant patients whose immune systems have been suppressed to facilitate the transplantation, and other vulnerable patient populations will be at greater risk of a MRSA infection. It is incumbent upon a treating physician to explain those risks to the patient. Failure to disclose a heightened MRSA risks and to procure the proper “informed consent” for treatment can form the basis for a MRSA negligence lawsuit.
Because early symptoms can be subtle, a physician may also miss a diagnosis of a MRSA infection, resulting in delays in treating the infection. Physicians who expect their patients to be at higher risk of contracting a MRSA infection may be held to a higher standard of care that involves watching for signs of infection. If the physician fails to treat a MRSA infection in its early stages, his delay can give rise to a cause of action for medical negligence.
More direct bases for a negligence lawsuit over MRSA exposure may arise from a surgeon’s carelessness during surgery or other treatment, or a hospital’s failure to implement standard sterilization procedures.
Causation and Negligent MRSA Exposure
All medical negligence cases will require an injured party to demonstrate a chain of causation between the alleged erroneous acts or occurrences and the injuries that resulted from those errors. If an injured party is unable to show that he contracted MRSA through a physician’s or hospital’s actions, his negligence lawsuit will fail. By some measures, the bacteria that cause staph infections are everywhere. A person whose immune system is weakened from the flu can easily get a secondary staph infection which, unlike MRSA, may be easily treatable. He should not assume that his doctor or the medical center where he received treatment for his flu is responsible for that exposure.
If, however, the staph infection resists easy treatment and other signs point to unusual bacterial contamination (e.g. a population of patients who received treatment from the same center all contracted an infection), the indications of cause and medical negligence are stronger. Standards of care and a physician’s or hospital’s adherence to those standards are often demonstrated with expert witness testimony in a medical negligence lawsuit. Where MRSA infection is suspected, additional expert analysis and testimony may be required to determine the strain of the infection and the correct course of treatment.
MRSA infections can have serious consequences, including death or permanent disability. A person who suspects that he or she has been exposed to MRSA should seek treatment from a qualified as soon as possible after the exposure. If that person suffers injuries, he should also consult with a medical negligence attorney at the earliest possible date to secure his right to seek redress for those injuries.
For an overview on how medical centers address MRSA cases from the National Institutes of Health, see: