The issues at the heart of medical negligence
Medical Negligence – Medical Negligence
When we, or someone close to us, are sick or injured, we will send them to a medical professional. The amount of trust that most people have for these professionals is almost unparalleled. This trust can be misplaced and if a healthcare professional does not act in an appropriate way, they may have committed medical negligence.
Medical negligence, also known as medical malpractice, is a specific type of professional negligence. Professional negligence occurs when an individual who has promoted themselves as a professional (in possession of above average skills and knowledge of a certain field) fails to live up to the standard that could reasonably be expected for them. Claims of negligence are usually built upon the grounds that the negligent actions of the professional have caused physical, monetary or psychological damage to the victim.
Medical negligence is therefore a situation in which a health care provider, who is supposed to be highly trained in their chosen field, simply does not provide the level of care that could reasonably be expected from another medical professional in their position. Medical negligence often results in continued illness, new injuries or even death for the victim. In this situation the victim, or their family, may feel the need to seek damages by filing a lawsuit against the professional or the institution they work for. Many medical professionals take out malpractice insurance policies that will cover their legal costs if they have such a lawsuit filed against them.
The basis of all medical negligence claims is that the professional had a duty of care towards the patient. This duty of care means that the health care provider has a legal obligation to ensure that no patient undergoes any unreasonable or unnecessary harm or loss. If this duty of care is seen to be breached the professional must subsequently accept a legal liability for the negligent behaviour.
The problem with trying to establish a claim of medical negligence is that it can often be very hard to do so. There will obviously be cases where the negligence is very clearly evident, such as performing the wrong type of operation or prescribing the wrong form of post-operation treatment, but in most cases it will be harder to establish. The crux of the matter here is whether or not the medical professional acted in a way that was reasonable in the circumstances. It should be remembered that in a lot of areas of medical treatment there is no consensus on the best form of care, so professionals will always be faced with many options.
With this in mind, the proof of a claim of medical negligence rests on 4 basic premises:
- The professional had a duty of care towards the victim to provide healthcare to the at least the minimum standard expected
- The professional in question subsequently performed under this expected standard
- This performance directly caused the victim physical harm and injury
- This performance means that the professional must now compensate the victim
If all 4 of the above premises apply to a case, there is a good chance that medical negligence can be proved.