It is undeniable that medical professionals have a difficult job. They are often required to make judgements that can significantly impact the lives of those they treat. At the same time, with that grave power over life and death comes great responsibility. Healthcare providers have a duty to take all precautions necessary to ensure an accurate diagnosis and treatment of those they serve. If they do not, those who suffered unnecessary trauma as a result, can be compensated for their stress and anxiety, pain and suffering, loss of employment, damage to their body, and loss of enjoyment of life.
What exactly is medical malpractice?
First, it is important to note that in order for actions (or the lack thereof) to qualify as medical malpractice, the patient must be under the healthcare provider’s paid and official care. That means that if someone asks a healthcare provider for advice on the street, or outside of the hospital or clinic in which they work, then it is extremely difficult to show that the person was under that physician’s care.
Medical malpractice is generally defined as any act or omission by a physician during the treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient. The injured patient must show that the physician acted negligently in rendering care, and that such negligence resulted in injury.
The patient and their representatives is responsible for showing that:
- The healthcare provider had a professional responsibility to the patient
This aspect excludes informal advice, or care rendered in a non-professional capacity. The medical professional and the patient must be engaged in a “professional relationship” whereby the medical professional is treating the person as an aspect of their job.
- The standard of care has been violated
There are medical standards that are recognized by the medical profession as being acceptable treatments by a reasonably prudent health care professional under similar or like circumstances. This is known as the standard of care. A patient has the right to expect health care professionals to deliver care that is in line with these standards, and if it is determined that the treatment provider deviated from these, or that the standard of care had not been met, it is possible to establish that there was negligence.
- The healthcare provider displayed negligence
In order for a medical malpractice claim to be valid, a patient must be able to demonstrate that they sustained an injury that would not have occurred in the absence of negligence. This means that an unfavorable outcome is not malpractice, there must have been negligence that caused the injury, and if not for that, the injury would not have happened.
- There were meaningful damages that resulted
The patient must show that the injury resulted in disability, loss of income, unusual pain, suffering and hardship, or significant past and future medical bills. It is unfortunately often not enough for the negligence to result in minor inconvenience, or the costs of litigating could quickly outweigh the award.
Is it only limited to doctors?
Many think that doctors and surgeons are the only ones who might be subject to medical malpractice, however all medical professionals may in fact be liable. This includes nurses, medical assistants, radiologists, obstetricians, anesthesiologists, and other hospital staff. The key determinant is whether the medical professional treated the person harmed in a professional capacity – meaning that they received treatment from the medical professional during a medical appointment.
If the patient asked for advice informally (say at a party or out casually) they have not entered into a professional medical relationship with that provider, and that advice does not constitute grounds for a malpractice case.
Medical malpractice can take many forms, but here are some common examples of negligence that might result in medical malpractice lawsuits:
- Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis
- Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
- Conducting unnecessary surgery
- Surgical errors or wrong site surgery
- Prescribing the wrong medication or dosage
- Inadequate follow-up instructions or aftercare
- Prematurely discharging a patient
- Disregarding or not taking appropriate patient history
- Failure to order proper testing
- Failure to recognize symptoms
If you or someone you know may have been exposed to negligence that could result in a medical malpractice case in Missouri, contact the Liberty Trial Law Group team for next steps. We can help guide you through every step of the process so that justice is served.