Medical malpractice is a complicated issue. When a doctor errs in their diagnosis or treatment, and a patient is injured as a result, a malpractice case may be possible. Determining whether any medical injury rises to the level of malpractice will depend on a number of factors. Even the most mundane procedure carries some element of risk, and not all medical injuries mean that malpractice has occurred.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is defined as occurring when a doctor or other health care professional fails to provide the appropriate treatment to a patient, fails to take appropriate action when they should have done, or gives the patient treatment that is not up to a reasonable standard. When an injury results from this, the patient or the patient’s family may have a legal case against the healthcare provider for malpractice. Medical malpractice law is an area of law that allows for those affected to obtain compensation.
What is medical procedure risk?
Simply because a patient suffers a negative effect due to some medical treatment, it doesn’t mean that a healthcare provider is guilty of malpractice. Unfortunately, a provider may do everything properly and still find that their patient is negatively affected. This is because of medical procedure risk.
Every procedure, no matter how common and minor, carries some degree of risk. For example, even dressing a superficial wound with an adhesive bandage carries a risk; the patient might have an allergic reaction to the materials in the dressing and develop a skin irritation. Even the commonest medications carry the risk that the patient will suffer some unwanted side-effects, while trivial surgical procedures inevitably carry a small risk that complications will ensue. The more powerful or invasive the procedure is, the more risk may be involved.
It is not a healthcare provider’s responsibility to avoid risk completely. That would be impossible, as no procedure or medication is entirely risk-free. Instead, a provider must weigh up the potential benefits of the treatment versus the possible risks. Allowing a condition to progress untreated would often be much riskier than providing treatment, even treatments that are known to have side effects.
A healthcare provider also has a responsibility to appraise the patient of the relative risks and benefits of a procedure so that they can make an informed choice about their own treatment. If the patient later suffers unwanted effects from that treatment, malpractice has not occurred as long as the treatment was appropriate. A patient is not entitled to sue simply because the outcome of the treatment was not satisfactory.
Do I have a malpractice case?
If you or someone close to you has experienced harm as a result of medical treatment, you may be able to sue for malpractice if the harm resulted from substandard care. A healthcare provider is legally responsible for the harm that a patient experiences if the standard of care was lower than that which a patient could reasonably expect.
Substandard care might include:
- Failing to diagnose a condition or providing an incorrect diagnosis,
- Failing to order necessary tests,
- Failing to act appropriately on test results,
- Discharging a patient before they were well enough, or
- Unnecessary surgery or surgery that was incorrect.
A malpractice case is possible if:
- The provider failed to deliver a proper standard of medical care,
- The patient suffered an injury as a direct result, and
- The injury results in significant damage to the patient.
Damage can include things like disability, ongoing pain, a loss of income, suffering or hardship. These conditions would need to be tied to the action or inaction of the healthcare provider. If you think you might be a victim of malpractice, you should consider speaking with a Medical Malpractice legal expert.