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Posted On September 2, 2014 Personal Injury
Asker: Can I sue a medical professional for malpractice? What about suing a doctor for withholding information that caused a delay in treatment?
Attorney: Medical malpractice is a common focus of questions from clients and prospective clients. “Med mal” claims are notoriously complicated, even for those of us in the legal industry – and these cases are extremely confusing for people with no legal background. Most people don’t understand what constitutes medical malpractice or who they can sue and under what circumstances – just as they may not know about obstacles to their claims until it’s too late.
What is medical malpractice? It’s not as simple as an unfavorable outcome. Medical malpractice can be committing an act of recklessness, like performing surgery on the wrong patient or the wrong body part, but it can also mean a failure to perform an expected action, like delaying a necessary procedure or missing what should be a clear diagnosis. The simplest definition of what constitutes medical malpractice is behavior that falls below an accepted standard of care. The standard of care means the standards that other members of the medical community would expect given the circumstances.
Let’s talk about what that phrase “standard of care” means. Different doctors may not always make the same diagnostic or treatment decisions. They may choose one medication, procedure, or test over another. It’s when a doctor who chooses to act in a way that is out of line with the practices considered acceptable by the larger community that the behavior is malpractice.
Obviously, when a doctor operates on the wrong patient or the wrong body part, there is negligence in the medical professional’s failure to check patient records. Other instances of malpractice are more subtle, and patients and their families may unfortunately never realize that they have the right to pursue a claim. For example, when a patient is diagnosed with cancer, doctors may choose from several treatment options, like radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Depending on the circumstances, all of these options might be within the acceptable standard of care. What’s not acceptable is neglecting to ever tell the patient that cancer exists, allowing the disease to become more severe and less treatable over time.
Some of the medical malpractice issues that people most commonly ask about include:
Medical malpractice comes in many forms, so even if your situation isn’t on this list, it’s still worth consulting an attorney to see if you have a case.
Naturally, people associate medical malpractice with doctors, but any medical professional who fails to provide patients with the accepted standard of care can be sued for medical malpractice. Nurses, chiropractors, and medical specialists can all be responsible for negligence that causes harm to a patient.
The biggest reasons why you might not be able to sue a doctor for medical malpractice include: