Medical negligence is a serious concern that arises when a healthcare professional fails to provide the standard of care expected in their field. It can lead to harmful consequences for patients and can have long-lasting effects on their well-being.
Recognizing what constitutes medical negligence is necessary for safeguarding the rights and health of individuals.
Failure to meet the standard of care
According to the AMA, patients sued 1.8% of physicians in 2022. One of the key elements of these medical negligence suits is when a healthcare provider fails to meet the standard of care expected in their profession. The basis of this standard is what a reasonably skilled and prudent medical professional would do in similar circumstances. For instance, if a doctor does not diagnose a condition that another doctor would have found, a court may consider it a breach of the standard of care.
Causation and direct harm
Establishing a direct link between the healthcare provider’s actions and the harm suffered by the patient is the key to a medical negligence claim. If there is no clear connection between the provider’s actions and the harm, it may be challenging to pursue such a claim.
Informed consent and communication
Healthcare professionals have a duty to ensure that patients are adequately informed about the risks, benefits and alternatives of any recommended treatment or procedure. Failing to provide this information, or not allowing the patient to make an informed decision, can be a form of medical negligence.
Documentation and record-keeping
Accurate and detailed medical records are necessary for providing quality care. If a healthcare provider fails to properly document a patient’s medical history, symptoms or treatment plans, it can hinder the continuity of care and potentially lead to harmful outcomes.
Timely and appropriate treatment
Delays in diagnosis or treatment can also constitute medical negligence. Prompt intervention can make a significant difference in a patient’s outcome. If a healthcare provider fails to act promptly when faced with a clear medical issue, a court may view it as a breach of their duty of care.
Recognizing when a healthcare provider falls short of the expected standard of care, and knowing the potential consequences, empowers individuals to seek appropriate action when necessary. Both healthcare providers and patients need to be aware of these aspects to ensure the best possible care and outcomes.