What is Medical Malpractice?
This term is legally defined as, “Instances in which health care professionals treat patients in a way that is different from medical standard or care, which results in patients being harmed.” Put simply, medical standard or care means the quality of services a patient would receive from a competent, experienced, level-headed health care professional.
Two Main Types of Malpractice Exist
What are those two types? Malpractice by either commission, or omission.
The former option, malpractice by commission, refers to instances of malpractice that involve physicians, for example, that actually do something wrong. This could include being drunk during a surgery and making a mistake, or not operating on the right organ, etc. These cases feature physicians actively engaging in behaviors that were inappropriate.
Malpractice by omission involves cases in which a physician doesn’t make a clear diagnosis of a condition that soon results in health problems, or failing to refer a patient to a relevant specialist that could immediately improve that patient’s quality of life.
Conversely, omission suits involve physicians actively not doing something, whether that’s on purpose or by mistake.
How Does Medical Malpractice Occur?
1. Failing To Obtain A Patient’s Informed Consent
When people agree to something, it means they consent to something. In medicine, a patient might agree to allow a nurse to stick a needle in their arm to draw blood, for example. Not every instance in which physicians fail to obtain consent can be considered malpractice, however.
Let’s assume that a patient is incapacitated after losing half their body’s supply of blood following a gunshot wound. After being taken to an emergency room, a doctor would likely perform surgery in hopes of saving the person’s life. What if a physician waited until that person was conscious? Doing so simply doesn’t make sense, as waiting just seconds can cause patients’ health to decline or even lose their lives. Physicians are, more or less, invincible in these cases, for good reason.
Another example might include a patient not getting enough information regarding a procedure or medicine prior to treatment. If a patient can’t read but claims they can, for example, that person wouldn’t be able to hold their side of the story in a court of law. However, if a physician fails to inform a patient of serious side effects from a treatment and the patient would otherwise have understood, they’re likely at fault in a court of law.
2. Bad Diagnoses
Medical professionals assess patients’ symptoms to form diagnoses. However, because doctors aren’t all-knowing gods, they sometimes make inappropriate diagnoses. Instances in which no damage occurs from failing to receive a correct diagnosis aren’t pursued in courts of law. However, if a patient has early signs of cancer that could be prevented, but a physician doesn’t think it’s cancer, and then ends up dying, that physician may be legally responsible.
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