Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare professional causes harm, injury, or even death to a patient because of medical negligence. According to the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, in Canada alone, 28,000 deaths occur yearly because of medical malpractice. This means that medical malpractice counts as the third leading cause of death after cancer and heart disease. These are alarming statistics. Medical malpractice happens across the globe and can cause harm to individuals and grief to their families. And from the side of the healthcare providers, it can cause serious damage to (and even possibly an end to) careers and can ruin the credibility of healthcare establishments. Though there are “winners” in medical malpractice cases, most of the time these are pyrrhic victories. For a problem of this magnitude, it is important that all parties have awareness about it. In this comprehensive article, we will shed light on medical malpractice claims, explore some example scenarios, and more. So whether you are a healthcare professional or any individual involved in a medical malpractice case, this article will cover all that you need to know. Let’s get started!
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor, or other healthcare professional violates the standard of care by an act of negligence or omission - and thereby causes injury, harm, or death to a patient. Medical malpractice can, of course, lead to litigation.
Are Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Filed Even for Really Minor Injuries?
Medical malpractice lawsuits are typically expensive to litigate and are only pursued when damage or harm has resulted in disability, loss of income, suffering and hardship, a significant addition to past and future medical bills, and death. For very minor damage (though this can be subject to individual perspectives), the cost of pursuing the case might be significantly greater than the eventual recovery - so most individuals in these situations do not take legal action.
What are the Four Elements of Medical Malpractice?
For a medical malpractice claim to be viable, it must satisfy the four elements of a medical malpractice incident. These are the four elements:
1. Duty of Care Owed to The Patient
Duty of care must be owed to the patient. This means that a healthcare professional must be charged with that patient’s care.
2. Medical Negligence (Or Breach of Duty)
Medical negligence happens when a healthcare professional violates the standard of care by negligence or omission. How is the standard of care defined? These are the actions that another healthcare professional in the same specialty would have done in an equal situation. This is why such an individual (a healthcare professional of the same specialty) is called in to testify in a medical malpractice case.
The patient must have suffered harm or injury - whether it’s physical or psychological - while in the care of the healthcare professional. Like we mentioned in the previous section, damages are often significant before legal action is taken because medical malpractice is expensive to litigate. But with that said, the injury can be new or take the form of aggravation to a pre-existing one.
There must be proof that the incident/s of medical negligence caused the damage/s sustained by the patient.
Why is Medical Malpractice Interchangeably Used with Medical Negligence?
A common mistake is interchanging medical malpractice with medical negligence. Medical negligence without a duty of care, injury, or causation is not medical malpractice. Medical negligence by itself (without the three other elements) typically does not make a viable lawsuit. It is safe to acknowledge though that most medical malpractice claims hinge on medical negligence - hence the confusion of these two terms.
Who Can Commit Medical Malpractice?
The short answer to this: ALL healthcare professionals. Medical malpractice is not only for doctors and surgeons. Other healthcare professionals like paramedics, medical assistants, nurses, and the like can also commit medical malpractice.
These healthcare professionals can also come from various medical disciplines such as:
- AnesthesiologyCardiovascular medicine
- Emergency medicine
- Geriatric medicine
- And more.
What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice?
Let’s have a close look at some examples of medical malpractice. For all of these scenarios, all 4 elements of medical malpractice are present: duty of care, medical negligence, damage, and causation.
Example 1: Physician
A common example of medical malpractice that physicians can commit is the failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis of a patient’s illness. This can lead to the delay of treatment which then aggravates the patient’s condition. Another example is when physicians prescribe the wrong drug or the wrong drug dosage to a patient, leading to harmful repercussions.
Example 2: Anesthesiologist
Anesthesiologists need to take great care with their work because errors can lead to permanent brain damage or death. If an anesthesiologist gives the wrong dosage of anesthesia to the patient or fails to take the patient’s history into account, this can lead to severe harm which then counts as medical malpractice.
Example 3: Surgeon
All types of surgery have associated risks. This is the reason why consent forms are signed by the patient and/or the patient’s family. But these consent forms do not discount medical malpractice. In the event that surgeons take out the wrong organ, puncture another organ, or carelessly leave tools inside the patient’s body, this can harm the patient greatly - resulting in a medical malpractice case.
Example 4: Nurse
When nurses fail to administer needed drugs to a patient or give the wrong dosage of a drug, this can cause harm or aggravation to the patient’s condition. This then counts as medical malpractice.
Example 5: Paramedic
Paramedics are tasked to respond to life-threatening situations. As such, incidents of medical malpractice are likely when the paramedic is not careful enough. Improper use of ambulance equipment, misdiagnoses, and willful failure to attend to a patient at the site of the accident - these are just a few examples of medical negligence that can quickly escalate into medical malpractice.
How Does Medical Malpractice Insurance Protect Healthcare Professionals?
Medical malpractice insurance—also known as medical professional liability insurance—is a comprehensive, must-have policy for all professionals who provide healthcare. This insurance policy provides coverage or the legal costs and expenses that can arise from claims of medical malpractice.
Where Can I Get Medical Malpractice Insurance?
KASE Insurance is one of the leading providers of medical professional liability insurance in Canada. We have gathered awards and a wealth of industry recognition through our years of service. With KASE Insurance, you can be sure that you are in good hands. We’ll be happy to assist you in putting together the best insurance policy for your line of work.