What Went Wrong? Prooving Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice, though usually defined rather broadly in the court of public opinion, is often difficult to prove in a court of law. Extensive criteria must be met for malpractice to be found by a court of law, and fully two-thirds of all medical malpractice cases are won by the defendant. Yet, in order to understand the concept of malpractice and how it affects the doctor/patient relationship, you first must understand the popular connotation of the term.
When it comes to public opinion, medical malpractice is any instance when a doctor has presumably failed in his or her attempt to provide adequate care for a particular patient, and the patient has as a result, suffered some sort of harm from this perceived mistake or oversight. In short, if a patient observes some type of harm as a result of medical care, a claim for malpractice might be made. In the legal sense though, medical malpractice is a much more specific term, issued by the courts, where three criteria must be met before the term can be applied.
First, it must be ruled that the doctor has failed in his or her duty of care towards the patient. A reasonable person would have done something different in the situation in question, thereby avoiding the failure. Second, it also must be found that some harm has resulted from the incident. Simply determining that the doctor has failed to perform his or her duty is not sufficient, as the patient must display a recognizable loss or pain as a result. Now, if a reasonable person could assume that this harm could have been avoided, malpractice might exist. Finally, it must also be found that some damages resulted from the doctor?s mistake or misjudgment. Mental suffering, loss of wages and physical agony would all be examples of this.
The difference between the public?s and the courts? perception of malpractice boils down to the issue of negligence, and whether or not the doctor in question is guilty of it. Negligence requires a state of mind that is found to be ?careless, inattentive, neglectful or otherwise reckless? in its attitude towards others.
Considering the lack of a cut and dry method for deciding when and if medical malpractice has occurred, and the potential for huge financial damages awarded to the victims, doctors typically carry very large malpractice insurance policies, which shield them from the financial ruin a large malpractice suit could potentially bring. With malpractice attorneys commanding huge fees for their services, the practice of malpractice law has, not surprisingly, become big business. Because laws governing medical malpractice, such as the statute of limitations for filing a suit, vary from state to state, it is important to get all the facts before proceeding with a malpractice case.
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