Elements of Health Care Malpractice

The Legal Nurse

court room for trialMedical or Health Care malpractice can be defined as a professional negligence by a medical professional i.e. a doctor, a surgeon, a nurse or any other healthcare professionals that results in emotional or physical harm to a patient. Medical malpractices come in many forms. For instance, a medical malpractice can be as a result of an act or an omission of a necessary act or care that eventually harms a patient.

 The four elements of medical malpractice

There are four main elements that have to be proven in any given medical malpractice case. These elements include; duty, breach of duty, damage and cause. These elements have to be assessed for a medical malpractice case to be determined.
1. Duty
Duty as the name suggests refers to the doctor patient, or health care provider relationship whereby a duty exists for the doctor to treat a patient according to the set professional code of conduct and practice. For a medical malpractice case to be determined, there must have been a given duty owed (to a patient) by a given healthcare practitioner i.e. doctor, nurse, pharmacist e.t.c charged with the care of a patient. The doctor-patient relationship is a common example of a situation where that duty would exist. A good example of a malpractice based solely under duty is when there is delayed treatment which is treatment that over four hours late. In such a case the duty owed is breached by a responsible party. It is however important to note that a medical malpractice case has to prove that all the four elements exist for it to qualify as a legal medical malpractice case.

 2. Breach of duty

Breach of duty in medical malpractice occurs in cases where a healthcare professional who has been charged with the responsibility/duty of care for a given patient fails in his or her duty by failing to exercise a certain acceptable degree of care or a given medical skill that any other healthcare professional practiseing in the same capacity or specialty would be able to give or address in equal circumstances. Such medical malpractices considered when an expert or experts in similar fields confirm that the professional should have been able to adhere to the set standard of care as required. A medical malpractice example based on breach of duty may include a practitioner i.e. a doctor failing to prescribe standard medication that may have serious health implications on a patient. A medical malpractice case has to proof that a practitioner breached their duty for compensation among the other elements for the case to qualify.

 3. Damage

In cases of medical malpractice damage, the patient has to have suffered either physical or emotional injury while under the care of a given healthcare professional/practitioner. This is among the most common element that dominates medical malpractice cases. For instance a medical practitioner i.e. a doctor may have operated a patient without following the set code/standards which eventually results in physical injury. A good example would be to operate on a patient and causing more new injuries that were not there initially or aggravation an existing injury. A medical malpractice case has to prove that the medical practitioner caused the new damage or aggravated as well as proof the existence of the elements for a case to qualify for hearing which can eventually lead to a patient wining the medical malpractice case and eventually getting compensated.

 4. Cause

The last element of medical malpractice is cause. For a medical malpractice legal case, there has to be concrete/solid proof that a given medical practitioner/professional directly caused a patient injury. Like all the above elements, the cause of injury must be as a result of all the above elements i.e. a breach of duty, duty and damage causing injury to a patient. Such medical malpractice cases are also common for instance when a doctor or a pharmacist prescribes the wrong medicine to a patient and then the patient takes the prescribed medicines and falls ill. The ’cause’ has to be proved in a medical malpractice case.
In conclusion, a successful medical malpractice lawsuit has to prove the existence of all four elements mentioned above four elements. If a healthcare practitioner being sued is able to prove that none of the elements exists, then the medical malpractice case is dropped.
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