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Medical Malpractice Or Not?

People put their lives in the hands of doctors every single day. We trust that doctors have had the training to diagnose and treat us properly. The law has a specific definition and criteria for medical malpractice. Is it medical malpractice or not? It’s a question we get a lot, and we are here to help people understand.

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Medical malpractice may be a term that you have heard before, but what does it really mean? There has been a recent trend of disturbing behavior from doctors, but not everything is medical malpractice.

Malpractice Or Unethical Or Bedside Manner?

There is a difference between malpractice, unethical behavior, and poor bedside manner. Sometimes, unfavorable behavior can be all these things. However, there is a legal difference between them and it is important to know.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice, by definition, is when a health care professional fails to follow the standard duty of care. As a result, the patient suffers harm or additional harm. There are a few ways that this may happen. Failure to take appropriate action, failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, ignoring symptoms, improper treatment, and failing to warn of potential risks are a few ways in which medical malpractice might occur. All of these things may cause harm, additional injury, or even death to a patient. 

what is malpractice

Proving Medical Malpractice 

Since medical malpractice does not always occur in the same way, it may be confusing to determine whether your doctor was unethical or medical malpractice was committed. To prove medical malpractice, you need to prove the following:

A doctor-patient relationship existed

You must prove that you were the patient of the person you wish to sue. If this person was not your doctor or health care provider, they did not owe you a duty of care. 

The doctor’s actions were negligent

Without negligence, you have nothing to sue for. Sometimes the patient’s desired results are not achieved, but these are not grounds to sue on. You must prove that your physician was negligent, and as a result, you were caused harm.  

The doctor’s negligence is the reason for your injury

If you have an unrelated injury you cannot sue a doctor for this. You must prove that whatever harm was done upon you was caused by your doctor’s negligence. 

Prove specific damages

You must prove actual damages. Whether it be physical harm, loss of wages, or additional surgeries needed – you need to prove actual harm occurred. 

Healthcare professionals are expected to follow a set of standards that they were taught in order to ensure the health and safety of patients. When this is breached, there is often a potential case of medical malpractice. However, proving all of the points is necessary for a successful case. 

surgeon malpractice

Unethical, But Not Malpractice

Determining unethical behavior is not always easy. In general, anything that feels uncomfortable or unprofessional may be considered unethical. However, this does not always equate to being malpractice. Unethical behavior may include:

  • Bad manners, or rude behavior toward patients 
  • Cherry-picking patients due to varying factors
  • Joking about or laughing at patients 
  • Becoming personally involved in a patient’s life
  • Failing to report bad behavior of colleagues

These are just a few examples of unethical behavior by medical professionals, but the list does not stop here. There are endless ways in which a doctor may be unethical. But unethical behavior doesn’t always equal malpractice.

Can Unethical Behavior Be Malpractice?

It is possible for unethical behavior to qualify as medical malpractice. Here is an example of a real situation where unethical behavior was grounds for a successful medical malpractice lawsuit.

Patient Recorded Audio During Procedure

In 2015, a patient was undergoing a colonoscopy in Virginia. While under anesthesia the patient’s phone was recording the entire event. The patient was very surprised to wake up to a recording of the doctors mocking them, making up medical conditions, and using offensive language. 

Anesthesiologist, Dr. Tiffany Ingham, was recorded saying she is going to mark the patient to have hemorrhoids though not actually knowing for sure, or even checking. She claims that she is “going to take a shot in the dark” 

Dr. Tiffany Ingham was not alone. Alongside her were colleagues Dr. Solomon Shah and an unnamed assistant. The group made comments such as wanting to punch the patient in the face, laughing about the patient having ebola and syphilis (which the patient did not have), and using offensive language such as “retard”. 

When Unethical Is Also Malpractice

These are just a few of the horrible and unethical comments they made during the procedure. When the patient became aware of these horrible recordings, he sued for defamation and medical malpractice. The patient was awarded $500,000 in their case.

This example of unethical behavior also deemed medical malpractice. Although the doctor did the job she was meant to do, the court ruled she was negligent in false diagnoses and crossed the line with comments during the procedure. Could you imagine trusting any diagnosis from this doctor?

Doctor Attends Traffic Court During Surgery

Another story from the news involves a plastic surgeon that attended a virtual hearing for a traffic violation. The doctor was obviously in surgery, and the judge was concerned for the wellbeing of the patient – more concerned than the doctor.

The doctor tried to explain another doctor was present and handling the surgery. But, we believe any doctor present in an operating room should be paying attention to the procedure at hand. Ultimately, the court decided to reschedule Dr. Scott Green’s trial. The patient was not harmed and did not pursue a claim against the doctor – although the doctor clearly violated ethical standards.

What To Do If You Experience Medical Malpractice 

Any time you believe you or a loved one experiences medical malpractice, talk to an attorney for advice. Contact Kane & Silverman for a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.