The arena of health care is inherently complex, as it weaves together science, empathy and ethics. When things go wrong in this domain, determining responsibility often presents challenges. Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes injury to a patient. Such negligence typically involves errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management.
To make a successful medical malpractice claim, the patient must demonstrate the following four elements.
Duty of Care
A fundamental aspect of any medical malpractice claim is establishing that the health care professional had a duty of care towards the patient. This simply means that the professional had an obligation to provide a certain standard of care, which generally arises once a doctor-patient relationship commences.
Breach of Duty
The patient must then show that the health care professional breached this duty by not adhering to the standard of care expected in their field or specialty. The professional’s actions are often compared with what a reasonably competent professional would do under similar circumstances.
Causation is another important thing the patient must prove, meaning they must demonstrate that the breach of duty directly resulted in their injury or harm. This connection between the breach of duty and the injury sustained is essential. It is not sufficient to simply show that the health care professional made a mistake; The mistake must have directly caused harm to the patient.
Another aspect the patient must prove is that they suffered damages because of the injury or harm. Damages can be physical, such as bodily injury or worsening of an existing condition, or non-physical, such as emotional distress or loss of earnings. Without provable harm, no matter how egregious the breach of duty, a medical malpractice claim cannot be successful.
Understanding these key elements helps patients navigate the process of establishing medical malpractice, thereby ensuring they protect their rights.