Forbes recently pointed out that medical negligence or, as it is more commonly called, medical malpractice. is the third largest cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease and cancer
Medical malpractice is defined as improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care professional. The very concept of medical malpractice is controversial, with doctors claiming that malpractice suits have established an unreasonable financial burden that has increased the cost of medical care. Trial lawyers, on the other hand, maintain that medical malpractice litigation is a useful tool for compensating victims of negligence and of policing the medical profession.
A person claiming medical malpractice must prove four things.
First, that the health care provider had a duty to provide care, rarely an issue once a doctor agrees to treat a patient.
Second, that the health care provider violated the applicable standard of care. Generally courts will combine standards of care within the locality where the alleged malpractice took place as well as national standards. Both sides of a case will call expert witnesses to inform a jury as to standards of care as established by medical specialty organizations.
Third, that the patient suffered some kind of compensable injury. The injury in question can be emotional as well as physical.
Finally, that the injury was caused by the substandard conduct on the part of the health care provider. This last is the one factor that is the most frequently argued in a court case.
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