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Medical Malpractice Defined

Medical Malpractice Defined

Medical
malpractice is defined as professional negligence toward a patient by a health
care professional. Health care professionals who may be charged with medical
malpractice include doctors, nurses, surgeons, and any licensed medical
professionals such as chiropractors, physical therapists and the like. It is
because of the occupational risk of medical malpractice that all health care
professionals are required to maintain active malpractice insurance to offset
the risk of potential lawsuits.

Medical malpractice may come on behalf of a treating doctor in the form of
gross negligence, or in oversight in the diagnostic phase of examination. For
example, if a patient’s primary doctor grossly misdiagnoses a condition and
fails to fulfill his or her legal duty to the patient to the best of his or her
ability, he or she may be liable for medical malpractice. A treating doctor has
a legal duty to a patient outlined in the Hippocratic Oath, which establishes a
standard of care to which he or she must adhere. 

If the doctor fails to uphold
the standard by either negligence or voluntary oversight, the patient may suffer
quantifiable losses for pain and suffering, or lost wages. In other words, it
is a primary doctor’s legal duty to perform a diagnosis to the best of his or
her ability, including observation of symptoms, as well as referral to the
proper specialist should the need arise. For example, if a primary doctor’s
knowledge of orthopedic injuries is lacking, or if his facility lacks the
appropriate diagnostic testing tools (MRI, X-Ray), it is his legal duty to refer
the patient to the appropriate radiology/orthopedic specialist for appropriate
diagnostics/treatment.

Medical malpractice may also come in the form of
egregious error on behalf of a treating medical professional. Outlined in the
Hippocratic Oath, it is the duty of all medical professionals to do no harm to
their patients. This standard of “harm” is weighed against the intent
of the procedure and its results. For example, a surgical incision may be
considered harmful and disfiguring, though if part of a life-saving surgery or
biopsy, the standard of care outweighs the damage of the initial incision. It
is only through dereliction of legal duty as a medical professional that a
health care provider may be sued for medical malpractice and found negligent.
Unforeseeable accidents are covered under the provider’s malpractice insurance
but are seen as less severe offences.

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