There are no guarantees in medicine, particularly when complicated or difficult procedures are required. Before undergoing medical treatment, you should be informed of the risks involved and of what exactly could go wrong. If you do not get the outcome you and your doctors hope for, it does not necessarily mean that a mistake occurred. Before jumping to the conclusion that you should file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you should understand exactly when a poor outcome may be malpractice and when it is simply an unsuccessful attempt to make you better.
What Has to Occur to Claim Malpractice
Sometimes surgeons, despite their best efforts, are unable to successfully perform a medical procedure. When this occurs and the patient’s condition is not improved or is actually made worse, it can be very upsetting to the patient and his family. However, this doesn’t mean the patient has grounds to sue the doctor or hospital for malpractice. This is one reason patients are asked to sign various waivers and permissions before undergoing a risky procedure. In order for a poor outcome to be considered medical malpractice, the patient must be able to prove that one or more of the following occurred:
- Negligence. When the care administered by a doctor or hospital falls below an acceptable medical standard, that care might be negligent or considered malpractice. To prove negligence, a patient will have to show that another medical provider with a similar skill and education level would have acted differently in the same situation. In other words, while anyone can make a mistake, when a doctor deviates from the standard of care, his actions may be considered negligent.
- Recklessness. While less common than negligent behavior, reckless behavior on the part of a doctor is also considered medical malpractice. Performing medical procedures while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or taking unnecessary risks with patients are considered reckless and could lead to malpractice charges.
In either case, it can be difficult to prove malpractice. A malpractice attorney, however, will know what questions to ask and what evidence to gather to support a strong claim when negligence or recklessness is suspected.
What Is Not Considered Malpractice
Doctors should never make promises about a medical prognosis, but when a patient does not respond to treatment as hoped or anticipated, this does not mean the doctor has made a mistake. Many doctors feel that it is important to give patients hope and to be positive and encouraging about treatment plans. The following outcomes are not necessarily indications of medical malpractice:
- Worsening condition. When a patient follows a doctor’s treatment plan but fails to improve, this does not mean the doctor has erred. Patients respond to treatments differently, and not every treatment will work for every patient.
- Poor surgical outcome. If a surgery does not go as planned and a patient is harmed, the doctor may not be at fault. If he followed medical procedures and acted as a similarly trained doctor would have, the patient probably does not have a claim for malpractice.
- Terminal condition. If a doctor tries all standard treatments for a particular disease and the patient cannot be cured, the doctor should not be held liable. Medical malpractice laws are not in place to guarantee a positive health outcome. They exist to ensure that all doctors and hospitals meet a certain standard of care.
Call the Holton Law Firm to Discuss Your Case
If you suspect a doctor or hospital acted negligently in providing you with medical care, call our Memphis office for a free case evaluation. We are proud to serve the residents of the greater Memphis area who have been injured by negligent doctors and hospitals.