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Medical malpractice exists in cases where a patient sustains some level of damages from a medical professional during the course of his or her official medical duties. Damages are a legal term, but ultimately, include a number of harms that the patient sustains as the result of medical treatment, which can include exacerbated medical issues, unnecessary medical costs, untreated but otherwise treatable conditions, as well as a whole host of other issues relating to income earning capacity, costs of medical care, as well as psychological and emotional duress. Damages are grounds for a lawsuit in many cases, but other elements must exist in medical malpractice legal cases.
Physicians, nurses, surgeons, and any other medical professionals are required by ethical and legal standards to provide a reasonable level of care to the patient. This standard of care is ultimately predicated on ensuring patient’s receive the best care possible in light of current medical practices, while also not knowingly harming the patient in the process. Moreover, throughout this process, medical professionals are obligated to provide information to patients that facilitate the patient making and then giving informed consent to treatment. Ultimately, any medical professional providing treatment to patients must adhere to a litany of professional standards, which if not followed, violate the medical professional’s obligation to treat patients in an ethically responsible and professionally competent manner.
In practice, medical malpractice is defined in large part by legal standards, which ensure that medical professionals remain accountable should they violate normal routines and standards of care when treating patients. These medical malpractice legal elements, which ensure patients are receiving the same, high-quality care as all other patients, are highly case and patient-specific but minimally include:
When a patient seeks out medical care, and a medical professional agrees to treat a patient, a patient-provider relationship is established. At this point, medical professionals are ethically and legally bound to provide a standard of care commensurate with industry standards. These standards, while defined by the medical community, will vary depending on the patient, the context of the treatment provided, and the nature of the medical issues facing the patient. Ultimately, the rubric for what constitutes instances of medical malpractice is expert opinions from other medical professionals in the same field, who would apply the standard of “what would a competent and ethical practitioner do when faced with the same patient?” If differences exist between the reasonable standard of care and the medical care ultimately received by a patient, negligence on some level is likely to have occurred. Failure to provide an adequate standard of care results is known as medical negligence, or medical malpractice, which if resulting in damages, is the groundwork for a viable medical malpractice claim.