Medical Malpractice Awareness Month: 5 Legal Terms to Know
Every July, the National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association hosts Medical Malpractice Awareness Month. Together, participants try to raise awareness of medical malpractice via outreach and education. Why is this so important? Because nearly 450,000 Americans die each year due to doctor negligence. Our nation must do better.
One of the ways lawyers can help is by holding healthcare providers responsible for what they’ve done. However, we can only step in when the victims of medical malpractice bring their cases to us. Far too many Americans just don’t know their medical rights. When those who don’t know about or understand what medical malpractice is are mistreated, they have no way of getting justice. Additionally, there are people who have heard of the law but don’t know how to tell if they have a case.
We know from our work how complicated medical malpractice can be to those who are neither doctors nor lawyers. Trying to learn about your situation may bring up technical papers and/or legalese that confuse more than they clarify. While we can’t explain all of medical malpractice in one blog, we wanted to highlight some of the more common terms you might run across as you’re researching. We hope this helps clear up some of your questions—but if you still need help after reading, feel free to call our lawyers for answers.
Medical Malpractice Terms You Should Know
Duty of Care
Simply put, a duty of care is a doctor’s responsibility for your health. While all doctors take an oath promising integrity and professionalism, this doesn’t mean every doctor in the world is bound to help you personally. A duty of care arises from the doctor/patient relationship you enter when you hire a physician.
Here’s an example:
- No duty of care: You read a social media post by a celebrity doctor who recommends a certain pill. Even if you choose to take the pill because of this post, this doctor has not taken you on as a patient and therefore has no duty toward you specifically.
- Duty of care: Your doctor tells you she’s worried about your high blood pressure and prescribes a medication. Because her advice is directly for you and given in a professional context, there is a duty of care, meaning she must act in your interests.
Standard of Care
We know they have a similar construction, but there is a difference between the duty of care and the standard of care. While the duty of care is a doctor’s obligation to give you proper treatment, the standard of care is what they must do to uphold that duty.
Medical malpractice cases establish the standard of care for each case based on what a reasonable doctor could be expected to do in a certain situation. If a doctor does not meet the standard of care, they are negligent and have thus breached their duty to you.
Before any medical procedure, a doctor should always obtain informed consent from a patient. This means they must notify the patient (or the person authorized to make medical decisions for them) of the risks inherent to the procedure and how likely it is they will experience such complications. When a patient who knows fully about potential complications/side effects decides to go ahead with a treatment method, they assume liability for any of these injuries, should they occur.
A never event is a medical error that is inexcusable. While we agree no medical mistake is justifiable, the severity of the lapse may vary from minor to crucial. Never events are instances of malpractice that are so extreme they are shocking. Examples include wrong-site surgery or leaving a surgical implement in a patient.
Error of Omission/Commission
There are many ways to discuss and label an instance of malpractice, but all types of negligence will fit into one of these categories:
- An error of omission is a case of medical malpractice where a doctor failed to do something they should have—for example, they didn’t send a patient to get a CAT scan despite the patient listing symptoms that could be related to a cancerous tumor. This could lead to a missed diagnosis, another error of omission.
- An error of commission refers to negligence in any treatment that was provided. For example, when a patient in need of a blood transfusion receives the wrong blood type, they may suffer serious complications. Or, a doctor may recommend the wrong treatment for a condition, leading a patient to receive unneeded care that does not solve their problem and could complicate matters further.
Are You Considering a Medical Malpractice Suit?
If, after reviewing the above terms, you think you might have a case for medical malpractice, we invite you to reach out to the team at Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi, PLC immediately. Our firm is currently celebrating its 50th year serving the people of Memphis—and in that time, we’ve helped thousands of accident and injury victims receive the compensation they needed for their injuries. Yet, we know there are victims of medical malpractice who do not get the help or closure they deserve.
Medical malpractice cases can be dense and highly technical, but our skilled and experienced team knows how to handle these claims. We also have an extended network of medical experts who provide the credentialed support we need to fight back against negligent doctors or healthcare facilities. If you are looking for justice, reach out to our team. We are ready to help.
Call Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi, PLC at (901) 526-2126 or send us a message for a free consultation. For your convenience, we can meet you at your home or the hospital to discuss your case.