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What Exactly Constitutes “Medical Malpractice?”

By Alpert Schreyer on March 15, 2016

Medical malpractice MarylandWhat is medical malpractice?

Any situation in which professional negligence or fraudulent behavior by a health care professional harms a patient – physically, emotionally, or financially – constitutes medical malpractice. (I will include a link to the DCMD Medical Malpractice page here)

It’s not just doctors who can be hit with malpractice suits: all licensed medical professionals, including chiropractors and physical therapists, are required to purchase malpractice insurance.

Negligence is key

In defining malpractice, the concept of negligence is important. Essentially, negligence is a failure to do one’s due diligence in treating a patient or when making a diagnosis. When a medical professional acts irresponsibly, he or she can be sued for damages.

For example, if a doctor makes a wildly incorrect diagnosis and then fails to fulfill his or her legal duty to perform a high standard of care as detailed in the Hippocratic oath, resulting in a patient’s injury or death, that doctor may face a malpractice suit.

Negligence can be tricky to pin down in some situations because in medicine, risks are constantly being weighed against potential benefits. The Hippocratic oath requires that health care professionals do no harm, but sometimes they must perform procedures that put patients at risk.

For example, when a doctor performs necessary surgery on a patient and saves the patient’s life, the doctor was upholding the standard of care. But if the surgery was the result of a misdiagnosis, the doctor did more harm than good.

From negligence to lawsuit

As mentioned before, a misdiagnosis can be grounds for a malpractice case. When there is a misdiagnosis, a patient can only initiate a malpractice suit when he or she bears adverse consequences through physical damage.

For example, a patient who needlessly undergoes surgery will suffer physical harm and probably emotional trauma as well as lost wages. That patient has the trifecta of reasons to sue for malpractice and may be able to recover some of what was lost if able to prove that the doctor’s negligent actions directly led to his or her hardships.

A suit is warranted if the misdiagnosis arose from a doctor’s failure to adhere to the code of conduct, negligent actions, or obvious wrongdoing caused by laziness or incompetence. It is not warranted if the misdiagnosis was caused by a language barrier, faulty medical equipment, the patient’s concealment of important information about his or her condition, or a situation where some of the patient’s symptoms did not match the diagnosis.

If you or someone you know is the victim of medical malpractice, help is available. Contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Alpert Schreyer, LLC for a free case evaluation to get started on your way to receiving the rightful compensation you deserve. Contact us today


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