Everyone — patients and health care providers alike — recognizes that medical professionals must be careful not to make deadly mistakes. But beyond this point, there is not a lot of agreement about what constitutes medical malpractice, nor when medical care providers should be held liable. This disagreement is what makes medical malpractice a highly complex area of the law.
A recent publication for medical professionals attempts to define what medical errors are, and how care providers can stop them.
The report divides medical errors into two main categories. Errors of omission come about when a care provider neglects to perform a routine task. Researchers suggested one simple example would be failure to strap a patient to a gurney. Errors of commission involve a care provider taking the wrong action. One listed example is a care provider giving a patient the wrong medication, or a doctor performing surgery on the wrong side of a patient’s body.
According to the researchers behind the report, care providers may fail to report an error out of fear of punishment. Unfortunately, failure to report errors can sometimes mean hospitals and other institutions don’t correct problems that can lead to similar errors, and, worst of all, sometimes patients don’t get the care they need when they have been injured through an error. The goal of the report is to raise professional standards to a point where these errors are rare.
Medical malpractice law
The concept of professional standards is crucial to medical malpractice law. When a patient has been injured due to a medical error, the patient must show that the error came about because the care they received fell below professional standards.
Patients can’t ask for a guarantee that any medical treatment will work, but they can and do depend upon their care providers to give them medical care that is up to professional standards. If an error — whether it’s one of omission or one of commission — falls below professional standards and the patient is injured as a result, then the care provider can be found liable for the resulting damages.
It is no easy task to determine what professional standards are, and to show that care fell below standard in any given case. Medical malpractice law is very complex and winning these cases is difficult. The injured and their families should speak to an experienced attorney about their options.