What is medical malpractice? You might think you have a pretty good idea of what qualifies, but as experts point out, there are precise factors that need to be in play for something to fit the description of malpractice. Today, we’ll be taking a look at some of those factors and examining just how you can identify medical malpractice when it has taken place.
Facts About Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital or healthcare provider, through negligence or omission, causes the injury or death of a patient in their care. Now, should you be running out and buying life insurance to protect yourself from this possibility, or is this something that occurs only rarely?
According to some statistics, the number of deaths due to medical malpractice is at least 25,000 to 120,000 at minimum (out of the 65,000 to 200,000 medical accidents that occur annually), and those cases share the following common characteristics that qualify them as malpractice:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship — In other words, the patient hired the doctor to be their physician and the doctor agreed. If this relationship does not exist, then those claims might not be malpractice.
- The doctor behaved negligently — Just because you’re unhappy with a treatment doesn’t mean it’s malpractice, nor does a doctor’s care need to be the best possible. For malpractice to occur, they have to violate the “standard of care” that a competent professional would not fall beneath.
- That negligence led to injury — Pretty straightforward here, the injury you received from the health care professional must be a result of negligence in order for it to qualify as malpractice.
- That injury led to damages — lastly, the injury has to cause specific damages to the patient in order for it to be malpractice. This could be physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical costs, lost earnings, etc.
There are a few common scenarios that illustrate what malpractice looks like, such as failing to diagnose a condition that a competent doctor would have caught, and the patient in turn suffering a poor health outcome or even death as a result of that negligent diagnosis. Improper treatment might also fall under this umbrella, particularly if the treatment is one that no other sane doctor would use.
In the end, there are quite a few factors at play, so it’s best to limit the chances of malpractice happening in the first place. Whenever possible, stay prepared by researching your condition, documenting your symptoms, and having a dialogue with your health care providers to ensure you’re on the same page.