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Let’s Define Malpractice in Medicine to Understand It Better

Do you know the actual definition of medical malpractice? …Or do you just think you do?

Knowing exactly how to define malpractice could become an essential tool in protecting yourself and your health in the future. 

Luckily, we’ve broken it down simply with this easy-to-understand definition of just what malpractice in medicine entails.

Medical Malpractice: Defined

Ready for a slightly terrifying statistic?

The THIRD most common cause of death in the United States, just after cancer and heart disease, is– you guessed it, medical “negligence.” In other words, medical malpractice.

The Journal of American Medical Association has found that while the number of malpractice payouts has declined steadily in recent years, the amount of those claims is on the rise.

What does this mean for you?

Misunderstanding the realities and definition of malpractice can lead to tragic loss and at the very least, lots of wasted time and money. To avoid this, start with answers to these important questions.

Who Can Commit Malpractice?

Some folks wrongly assume that only a certified physician, M.D. or D.O., can actually commit medical malpractice. This is not the case.

Malpractice or negligence can be committed by any healthcare professional. This includes:

  • Hospital or office staff
  • Pharmacists
  • Nurses
  • Nurse assistants
  • Physicians
  • etc.

How Often Does Malpractice Occur?

It may be shocking to realize that medical malpractice is actually quite common. You may read this and realize that you or a loved one has already fallen victim to this.

Unfortunately, people are human and prone to error, even doctors and medical professionals. It can be tempting in a time of pain or illness to assume wrongly that your doctor, pharmacist or nurse “knows all” and will do everything perfectly in treating you or a loved one.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that nearly 250,000 deaths a year occur to medical error. Do we even need to state the obvious and say, “that’s a lot!”

Malpractice Myths: Debunked

1. One common, yet false, belief out there is that hospitals and physicians are sued all the time for every small mistake made. However, because of misinformation, lack of education, or even (sadly), lack of means, a very small number of preventable medical errors are actually brought to suit.

2. Another malpractice myth is that when a patient or loved one does win a malpractice suit, there are millions of dollars or large sums of damages awarded to them. This is not always the case.

As stated above, the rate of damages has increased in recent years, but not every mistake is equally serious.

For example, if a pharmacist fills the wrong prescription, causing severe side-effects in a patient, this could be highly dangerous and may result in a larger sum awarded a patient if they win the suit.

On the other hand, a nurse who forgets to disinfect a surgical tool may be a less severe case. That is… unless that tool is carrying some virus or disease that then infects a patient. 

You get the idea.

3. Our last myth to debunk is that patients are generally awarded punitive damages. Most often, medical malpractice cases may result in compensatory damages to allow pay for the patient to recover from the damage or pain caused.

However, in order to receive some degree of “punitive damages,” the medical professional in question would have had to do something intentionally reckless, dishonest, or illegal.

Define Malpractice

To put things very simply, a basic definition of medical malpractice may be as follows:

When any medical professional does not provide, or parts from, the widely accepted “standard of care” in treating a patient.

This can sometimes be shady as what is known as the “standard of care” is defined as what any other reasonable or careful medical professional would have done if they were in the same position.

With a definition like this, you can see how winning a case, or proving negligence on the part of a medical professional could get somewhat tricky.

How to Know if Malpractice Has Occurred

Having a negative outcome of medical care doesn’t always mean you’ve suffered malpractice.

If a medical provider’s error or negligence results in damages or injury to a patient, you have a case.

On some occasions, a medical professional may even offer an apology or acknowledge a minor error on their part in an attempt to be forthcoming and honest. 

You may also be made aware of a previous physician’s mistakes by a current care provider in an attempt to inform you of your current doctor’s awareness of the errors.

Be aware that most of the time, insurance companies will try to make a settlement directly with a patient in order to avoid further costly legal problems.

The hard truth is that if you are considering pursuing a suit, you must be prepared for a long, costly, and difficult struggle. However, hiring an experienced attorney will be a major asset. 

Indiana hospital negligence attorneys or others in that field are great examples of professionals who can help you determine if your case is worth pursuing. A skilled legal professional will be your best means for success.

How to Lessen the Risk of Malpractice

Being well informed about your health, unusual symptoms, and potential treatments will go a long way in preventing anything from going awry with your medical care.

It may also be wise to bring a trusted friend or family member to any major medical appointments or procedures. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. While it is good to develop a relationship of trust with your medical care providers, it’s also important to listen to your own body’s signals and your intuition. 

Don’t be afraid to speak up if you have concerns.

More Helpful Health Hints

Knowing how to accurately define malpractice and being proactive about your own health are essential steps in ensuring your safety and happiness.

Take charge of your own health today by getting educated. Browse our health section for more articles on all things health as well as treatment ideas and hints for a variety of conditions. 

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