Getting A Grip On Medical Malpractice Law

by Jay Anderson

Medical malpractice law forms the basis for judgments regarding the professional practices of a doctor or medical practitioner in the event there are accusations of negligence or improper administration of care for medical conditions. Legitimate medical malpractice may occur due to a violation of the applicable standard of care or failure to administer appropriate care, but in either case, the patient must incur harm, injury of death as a result.

Medical malpractice may take a variety of forms. The doctor in question may have delayed treatment of a medical condition that had already been diagnosed; he or she may have failed to provide the appropriate treatment for a specific medical condition; or the doctor may have failed to properly diagnose a medical condition. With differing state malpractice laws, the procedure and laws governing lawsuits will vary from one state to the next so it is important that both patient and doctor understand the laws of the specific state in which the doctor is practicing. However, if the doctor does make a mistake, but there is not medical harm or death as a result, the patient will not be eligible for compensation of damages.

Yet another segment of medical malpractice law has to do with the subject of informed consent. A patient must give informed consent to a medical procedure in order to have it done. This means that he or she knows all of the dangers and benefits of the procedure, and consents to any risks taken. When the informed consent is not properly obtained, the doctor can be said to have performed medical malpractice even if the patient is not actually harmed by the procedure.

The rapidly evolving environment of healthcare compounds certain problems, making malpractice law even more vital. Medicine has evolved into more of a business of profit and this increases the pressure placed upon physicians to see more patients and make faster diagnoses all while being as efficient as possible. Physicians are only human and this hurried environment leaves doctors very susceptible to making errors.

This characteristic of the new environment of the medical industry is that doctors are spending less and less time with their patients which equates to less time that the doctor has to obtain the patient’s medical history that is thorough enough to provide the doctor with vital clues that may aid him or her in diagnosing a condition. This is problematic for both the patient and doctor because the likelihood of misdiagnosis or missing key symptoms that could lead to a diagnosis is very high. Medical malpractice law is even more relevant in such cases because it plays a major role in improving patient care as well as protecting doctors from frivolous or erroneous lawsuits.

While medical malpractice law protects doctors and healthcare professionals from frivolous or unfounded lawsuits, they do still occur. While the actual numbers for frivolous lawsuits are unknown due to insurance companies choosing to settle claims out of court, it is estimated that anywhere from 25% to as much as 50% of medical malpractice lawsuits that are filed and are determined to be frivolous are still paid. This is one drawback to allowing claims to be settled out of court; there is no checks and balances system. This action has led some doctors to counter sue patients whom they believe to have filed an unfounded or frivolous lawsuit.

It is very important that doctors carry medical malpractice insurance in order to protect themselves from lawsuits, regardless of whether the suit is valid or not. Even the most vigilant of doctors can have medical malpractice claims filed against them resulting in lawsuits. Doctors who have been sued should immediately contact their insurance company. They have an arsenal of resources to help fight medical malpractice lawsuits should they be found to be invalid.

In many cases, medical malpractice law, as it currently stands, has been regarded as ineffective by both patients and physicians. Patients who are legitimately injured by malpractice may slip through the cracks and never see vindication while physicians who are innocent of the malpractice claims may be victimized as well. A common belief is that attorneys on both sides will profit, regardless of the outcome. Improvements need to start there. Proponents of medical malpractice law feel that the system needs to be “fixed� so that efficiency is increased and both the patient’s and physician’s rights are considered. Perhaps ending the system where attorneys go head to head, vying for the win would result in a medical malpractice system that is more efficient and fair to all parties involved.
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