What is Medical Malpractice: Definition of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice (also known as “professional negligence” or “medical negligence”) can be defined as a legal cause of action that may be asserted by someone who is injured due to the negligence of a doctor, physician, medical professional, hospital or other healthcare provider. To establish a claim of medical malpractice against a health care provider, a plaintiff must prove: (1) the applicable standard of care; (2) a provider’s negligent failure to comply with the applicable standard of care; and (3) a resulting injury proximately caused by the alleged negligence.
Medical Malpractice Definition: Standard of Care and Deviation From That Standard of Care
In general, in a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff must offer expert testimony to establish the applicable standard of care, unless the subject or treatment is so common that a lay person could readily understand it. A doctor, nurse, therapist, healthcare provider or other medical professional generally must possess and use the knowledge, skill and care ordinarily used by a reasonably careful doctor, nurse, therapist, healthcare provider or other medical professional.
The failure to do something that a reasonably careful doctor, nurse, therapist, healthcare provider or other medical professional practicing in the same or similar localities would do, or the doing of something that a reasonably careful doctor, nurse, therapist, healthcare provider or other medical professional would not do, under circumstance similar to those shown by the evidence is “professional negligence.” A “deviation from the standard of care” is another way of describing medical or professional negligence. Negligence by a hospital, clinic or other healthcare institution is the failure to do something that a reasonably careful hospital, clinic or other healthcare institution would do, or the doing of something that a reasonably careful hospital, clinic or other healthcare institution would not do, under circumstances similar to those shown by the evidence.
Medical Malpractice Definition: Causation of Injury
To establish proximate cause, a plaintiff must show that defendant’s negligence “more probably than not” caused plaintiff’s injury. Such proof must be established by expert testimony to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, and the causal connection must not be contingent, speculative, or merely possible. Under the “lost chance doctrine,” a plaintiff may establish proximate cause by proving that the alleged negligence resulted in an injury in which the patient was deprived of a chance to survive or recover from a health problem, or where the malpractice has lessened the effectiveness of treatment or increased the risk of an unfavorable outcome to the plaintiff. Causation evidence may be presented through the plaintiff’s expert’s opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the defendant’s alleged negligence proximately caused the increased risk of harm or lost chance of recovery. To show proximate cause, the plaintiff is not required to show that a better result would have been achieved or that the patient would have had a greater than 50% chance of survival or recovery, absent the alleged malpractice.
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