What is Medical Malpractice?

You mаy hеаr аbоut thеm in the pаpers оr оn TV, but the truth is thаt medical malpractice cаsеs are not mеrеly lаwsuits bаsed on the fаct thаt a patiеnt was somеhow injurеd by a hеalthcare provider.

What is Medical Malpractice? 

Medical malpractice or "professional negligence" is a substandard treatment by a healthcare professional that leads to physical or financial damages to the patient. “Substandard treatment” means treatment on below-standard level, that violates normal medical practices in USA.

There are 3 common factors of medical malpractice: liability, physical/psychological/economic damage and direct causal link.

1.“Liability” means that there must be a doctor-patient relationships. And this is very important, because only a professional relationship establishes the duty of "reasonable care". Therefore, in absence of such relationships a medical malpractice cannot be proved.

2. Damage to the patient must not only to present but also to be in direct causal link with healthcare provider actions and his professional negligence. Notice, that a bad outcome alone is not grounds for malpractice.

There are 2 main types of damages in medical malpractice – economic and non-economic. Economic damages include expenses for medical costs, lost income and also future lost earnings. Non-economic damages can hardly be measured in dollars and include physical pain and psychological sufferings that a patient must endure due to the negligent of healthcare professional. Compensations for non-economic damages are often the largest awarded in medical malpractice cases in USA today.

What are the Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice?

1. Misdiagnosis. Include incorrect diagnosis of patient injury or illness. Often it leads to wrong treatment and futher medical errors.
2. Surgical Error. Include errors during surgery, such as: accidentally damaged organ or left medical equipment in patient. They are one of the most damaging.
3. Anesthesia Error. Occurs when anesthetics are not administered properly due to negligence of the anesthesiologists.
4. Child Birth Injuries. Can occur in a different ways, the most frequent of which are forced extraction injury and failure to respond to fetal distress (both result in braind or nerve damage).

Speaking more commonly, medical errors according to American Hospital Association (AHA) include:
  • lack of patient information concerning allergies and lab results, previous diagnoses and other prescription or over-the-counter medication they might be taking;
  • lack of complete information about the drug, such as warnings and side effects;
  • miscommunication among healthcare professionals resulting from poor handwriting, misplaced decimal points and zeroes, ignorance of the metric dosing system and confusing abbreviations;
  • failure to appropriately label a drug;
  • bad lighting, noises and other interruptions that could distract a healthcare professional while they administer medication.

What Options Does a Patient Have in Case of Malpractice?

Injured patient can bring a claim against the doctor or other healthcare professional (even hospital or medical insurance company). And often these cases settle for hundreds thousand of dollars. Being sued to the tune of gigantic dollars threatens to put a physician out of practice - this is why almost physicians in USA get themselves 'covered' by purchasing malpractice insurance.

Read Also: How To Make Money Out of Medical Malpractice?

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