Medical malpractice is always a complex area of injury law, never more so when dealing with treating an emerging disease like COVID-19. People who have lost loved ones or suffered long-term health damage due to COVID-19 may be considering legal options,
including bringing a malpractice suit against the medical professionals involved in their diagnosis and treatment. Read on if you’re wondering, “do I have a case for medical malpractice after COVID-19?”
When little is known about an infection, diagnosing the condition and administering the appropriate treatment may be very difficult. Cases may have unfavorable outcomes that, with hindsight, could have been prevented. Yet, these may not rise to the level of malpractice if medical professionals acted in accordance with the best available information at the time. Even so, it is still possible to commit malpractice if proper procedures aren’t followed. If a medical professional harms a COVID-19 patient through inaction or the administration of inappropriate drugs or procedures, the case may rise to the level of malpractice.
It can take many years for an infection to be thoroughly studied and proper treatment to be discovered and evaluated. When the condition isn’t properly understood, there are likely to be many interventions that seemed reasonable at the time but which turn out to be ineffective and even dangerous. A drug that shows promise initially may be found to be ineffective or to come with side-effects that rule it out in some cases. A procedure that would be routine in superficially similar cases may turn out to be counterproductive when used to address the new disease. People may be harmed by these interventions or may have a slower recovery than they would have if different interventions had been used.
In some cases, the disease may not be diagnosed in time, and the patient may suffer as a result. Even so, these situations needn’t be malpractice. A doctor or other medical expert may follow every recommended procedure and still not treat their patient successfully.
Another potential issue is the lack of resources. A medical professional’s preferred course of action may not be possible if the medication or equipment required isn’t available. If a patient needs oxygen and there is none available because it’s being used on other patients, the medical professionals may be forced to make difficult decisions about who should receive treatment. In this case, some patients may not receive the ideal spectrum of interventions — yet this may not meet medical malpractice requirements.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is everyone’s responsibility, yet medical professionals have a particular duty to avoid the transmission of viruses and other infectious agents. If a professional neglects to take all reasonable precautions against allowing a patient to be infected with COVID-19, it might theoretically be possible to build a case for malpractice if the negligence is especially egregious.
In the case of COVID-19, the situation is further complicated by measures designed to protect overburdened carers and medical facilities from lawsuits. Some states have now put laws in place that indemnify doctors and other care providers against legal action arising from COVID-19 cases. Florida may also introduce similar restrictions. In most states and districts, there is a proviso that excludes serious negligence or misconduct. In New York, for instance, treatment decisions must have been made “in good faith” for the practitioner to be protected. In Kentucky, medical professionals are only protected if they can show that their actions were “prudent and reasonable.” If Florida does bring in similar laws, they’ll likely be limited in the same way.
While the standards for malpractice may be higher in cases involving COVID-19, it may be more challenging to bring a malpractice case. You’ll need an expert medical malpractice lawyer to help navigate this complex situation.