Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. The negligence might be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management.
To be considered medical malpractice under the law, the claim must have the following characteristics:
Medical malpractice can take many forms. Here are some examples of medical negligence that might lead to a lawsuit:
Medical malpractice is negligent treatment by medical providers, such as a doctor, hospital, nurse, chiropractor, therapist, or other medical practitioner. If a medical practitioner fails to act in accordance with accepted standards of practice in the diagnosis or treatment of a condition, they may be responsible for all damages that result, including pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of wages, or a death.
Example 1 – A patient has headaches and goes to the Emergency Room. The doctor there fails to do a required standard test that would have disclosed the presence of a weakened blood vessel in the brain. If detected, the weakened blood vessel could be easily repaired by surgery. Because the doctor didn’t do the standard test, the vessel ruptures, and the patient dies. The doctor and hospital would be responsible for the losses to the family, including loss of the support, love, and comfort that the decedent would have provided.
Example 2 – During abdominal surgery, a doctor becomes distracted and cuts into the patient’s liver, seriously damaging it. A review of the case by other surgical experts demonstrates that in her distraction, the doctor failed to follow accepted protocols and procedures. The clinic would be liable for the medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of wages that result.
Example 3 – A patient goes into the hospital to have a mammogram, a standard breast examination. The radiologist reads the resulting x-rays, but mixes up the report with another patient’s. As a result, the patient is told she has advanced breast cancer and needs to have her breasts removed immediately, when in fact, her test was perfectly normal. The doctor and hospital are responsible for the resulting surgical costs, infections, loss of wages, disfigurement, and other damages that result.
Sometimes, the presence of medical malpractice is obvious, such as Example 3 above. However, the mere fact that the result of a surgery or treatment is not what the doctor predicted or expected does not necessarily means that medical malpractice has occurred. Rather, anytime a person learns that a doctor, hospital, nurse, chiropractor, or other medical provider did not follow accepted medical procedure, they should be concerned that medical malpractice has occurred. Quite often, the presence of a medical practice case can only be learned through consultation with an attorney experienced in handling medical malpractice matters.