Medical malpractice is also referred to as medical negligence, and involves the negligent or irresponsible medical treatment of a doctor, nurse or other medical practitioner that results in injury or death of a patient in their care. The results of such malpractice can also result in economic damage to a patient. The substandard medical care that a health care professional provides to his or her patients must be considered to be in violation of normal medical practices in order to be deemed malpractice.
Some of the more common examples of medical malpractice include the following:
- Failing to properly diagnose a patient with a specific ailment
- Misdiagnosing a disease or condition
- Failing to provide proper treatment for a specific medical condition or illness
- Unnecessary delay in providing treatment for an illness or medical condition
Medical malpractice laws govern the care that medical practitioners provide to their patients, and deal with retribution and consequences that are dealt to those who perform their medical duties at a substandard level, resulting in injury to a patient. It is important to note that each state may have medical malpractice laws that vary significantly.
Factors That Dictate When Malpractice Has Occurred
There are generally three factors that must exist in order to prove that a health care practitioner is guilty of medical malpractice:
- Direct causal link
Liability in the Form of Informed Consent
A health care practitioner may be liable if their inappropriate actions or failure to act results in damages to a patient. Liability describes a form of obligation or responsibility that a medical practitioner has with their patients. Legal liability on the part of a medical professional can involve a medical treatment or procedure that is conducted on a patient without obtaining informed consent from the patient. If a patient does not provide informed consent for their health care practitioner to perform a specific treatment or procedure, which results in some form of physical or economic damage, that medical professional can be held liable for these damages.
Regardless if the procedure is performed properly and with great accuracy, if no prior informed consent was provided by the patient beforehand, medical liability on behalf of the health care practitioner may be present.
An example of this type of informed consent would be a doctor intending on performing a specific type of surgery to address an ailment on a patient. If the doctor does not fully explain the risks associated with the surgery, such as the fact that there is a 50/50 chance of the patient suffering paralysis as a direct result of the procedure, the doctor can be held liable if paralysis does in fact occur as a result of the surgery.
Since the patient did not receive all the pertinent information related to the surgery, he or she was unable to provide accurate informed consent or be able to make an informed decision on whether or not to allow the procedure to be performed. Even if the surgery or procedure is performed perfectly, the doctor can still be liable based on the fact that informed consent was not given based on all the available information that was not provided to the patient.
Injury or other damages must be a direct result of an inappropriate act or absence of a necessary act on the part of the medical professional on the patient in order for medical malpractice to exist. If the patient suffers no harm or damages as a result of the doctor’s conduct or error, the patient will be unable to recover any damages under medical malpractice law.
Damages alone are not enough to bring a medical malpractice charge against a medical practitioner. For example, there are certain inherent risks associated with specific surgeries. If the patient was fully informed of all the risks, gave informed consent prior to the surgery, and the doctor performed the surgery with the highest degree of accuracy, any physical damages suffered as a result of that surgery will most likely not be considered medical malpractice.
Malpractice cases and suits can be challenging and expensive to bring forth. Litigations and cases brought against a doctor or a medical facility or organization require the necessity to seek out legal advice from experts. An attorney who specializes in medical malpractice lawsuits is the best source to obtain legal advice from in these cases, and to help bring forth a malpractice suit should the injured patient decide to go that route. These lawyers have the necessary resources to help develop a patient’s case and take the case to trial to recover any damages suffered as a result of a medical practitioner’s errors and omissions.