Medical malpractice is a serious issue that affects thousands of people in the United States every year. Despite its prevalence and the risk that it carries, medical malpractice is largely misunderstood by the general public.
The average patient may not understand what constitutes medical malpractice, how they should respond to it or what their rights are after experiencing it. The collection of frequently asked questions below can help educate you about the basics of medical malpractice.
What exactly is medical malpractice?
Some people think that medical malpractice only involves gross negligence or misconduct on the job. However, medical malpractice has a relatively broad definition. It is any medical treatment or decision that does not adhere to best practices or result in an appropriate standard of care for a patient.
If another physician with similar education and access to the same patient information would disagree with what a physician did for a patient, their actions might constitute medical malpractice.
What kinds of medical malpractice could a patient encounter?
Medical malpractice comes in many different forms. One of the most common is the failure to diagnose someone or the diagnosis of a patient with the wrong condition. Medication errors are also common, and they could involve the prescribing physician, a pharmacist or even a nurse working in a hospital.
Surgical errors could range from an anesthesiologist making a mistake to a surgeon leaving something behind in a patient. There are also birth injuries, which involve inadequate or improper interventions during labor causing injury to the mother or child. Medical negligence is also an issue that tends to affect those receiving long-term care, either in the residential facility or from a nurse in their own home.
How should a patient act when they suspect medical malpractice?
The first step to take when you believe that your care has not been adequate or appropriate given your condition is to document your concerns. Keeping a record of your experience with your doctor or in the hospital can help show what happened.
Requesting copies of your medical records is also an important step, especially because you will want to check for discrepancies between the official record and the care you actually received. Finally, obtaining a second opinion from an unaffiliated physician or medical professional is often necessary to determine what steps to take next.
You may have the right to file an insurance claim against the medical care provider or the facility that managed your treatment. Malpractice insurance can cover some of the losses that patients suffer due to inadequate or improper medical care. In some cases, a civil lawsuit may be necessary for a patient to recoup their losses.
Understanding the basics of medical malpractice can help you fight back when you don’t receive appropriate care.