Injury Law

What to Do in the Event of Medical Malpractice

Medical Doctor Law

You’ve probably heard the cost of healthcare reported in dollar amounts that most of us can only imagine, like billions and even trillions. However, many times the actual cost of healthcare is paid with life. Medical malpractice doesn’t always end in death, but if the patient is left with a long-term disability or the inability to live as they once did, shouldn’t someone be held responsible? Because healthcare has many ups and downs, it seems some experts want you to only ponder the good things healthcare can accomplish, but it’s crucial to understand that malpractice happens and know what to do when it does.

If you or a loved one suffered a medical malpractice injury, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 195,000 deaths that occur each year are due to errors made by healthcare professionals. It’s critical to know that it’s not only physicians who make mistakes. Other professionals such as nurses and therapists can make mistakes, too.

In a world of sophisticated medicine and high-tech methods of diagnosis and treatment, you might wonder why so many malpractice claims continue to happen. Physicians and other professionals are supposed to do their best to care for patients, not harm them. If you do happen to fall victim to this phenomenon, do you know how to file a malpractice suit and still bounce back after the event? Here are the essentials you need to know.

Is “Do No Harm” Even Possible?

Many medical schools have their students take the Hippocratic Oath. This promise has been recited by thousands of new physicians. It was written more than 2,500 years ago, and you might think of the words, “Do no harm,” when you hear it mentioned. The Hippocratic Oath doesn’t actually have those exact words in it, but here is a similar part:

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

But, can a physician actually promise to never do harm while providing care? Some experts believe that doing harm or practicing correctly should be viewed on a spectrum. Do no harm is natural to achieve when there is a definitive diagnosis and treatment. But, what if the patient presents in a critical condition and needs immediate surgery? Should we give the care provider a pass and just accept that mistakes happen?

First of all, we believe that doing no harm during medical care is achievable, and so does the U.S legal system. Medical malpractice cases are determined through the use of the “reasonably prudent” physician rule. The conduct of the provider is judged against the standard of how another physician would have acted in a similar circumstance to determine if negligence occurred. When determining if a medical professional is at fault, their conduct is viewed in terms of professionalism and competency based on their experience, training and the “reasonable prudent” physician rule.

After the Mistake: The Provider

You might be surprised to learn that more than half of all physicians, 55% to be exact, have been named in a malpractice lawsuit during their career. Of these doctors, 48% were included in a suit along with other providers. Many cases are settled out of court or dismissed before ever entering a courtroom.

Regardless of the outcome, the provider in question has a few options after litigation. Depending on the offense and if any disciplinary action was taken by the board which governs their license to practice, they could choose to continue providing care or pick another path. They may decide to leave medicine, take early retirement, or move into a non-care role. However, sometimes physicians recover and continue to provide the same level of care as when the event happened.

After the Mistake: The Patient

You know all too well about the risks taken to get medical treatment. And, you might even be wondering how you move on and trust another provider again. The most critical step is to find a new physician or facility right away. You don’t need to tell your current physician the reason you’re moving your care to someone new. Once established with a new provider, you can discuss the issues with them so that they can get you back on track with the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

You’ll need to follow your treatment to restore your health and keep yourself well during your trial or settlement. Get copies of all of your medical records, including any tests that were performed and medications prescribed. Make copies for your attorney and then provide your new physician with copies, too.

During the time after your suit is filed, you’ll probably have to speak to a few different professionals, along with your attorney. You might talk with an administrator in the healthcare industry to discuss any other concerns you might have. These healthcare professionals are often in charge of hospitals, agencies, or other facilities and even have some oversight responsibilities when it comes to physicians, nurses, and other hospital staff. They can help you and your attorney get on the right track with the suit and decide the best steps for moving forward.

Getting Past Medical Malpractice

Moving past the implications of a medical mistake is a challenging task. You must pick up the pieces of your health and move on with your life, and restore your physical and mental health. You might have trouble trusting other medical opinions in the future, but with time, you should be able to move past the medical malpractice.

Brooke Faulkner is a writer, professional ponderer, and proud momma of two from the Pacific Northwest. When she's not at her desk, she's likely to be found zipping around on her old ATV. You can follow her on LinkedIn.

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