What is Medical Malpractice?

March 8, 2014

There is nothing worse than training your entire life to become a medical professional, either a physician, surgeon, primary care doctor, or registered nurse, only to make a mistake, mostly unintentional, and harm one of your patients.  Medical malpractice is a serious issue addressed extensively in medical school. As a medical professional, your goal is to always provide the best medical diagnosis, care, and treatments that you can.  However, nearly every physician, at least once in the course of his/her career, will be faced with allegations of malpractice.  If you are considering a medical career, here are some important factors to think about.

Know what it is and how it happens.  Medical malpractice results when medical professionals are negligent in their care and treatment of patients. Negligence that leads to patient harm or death is subject to a medical malpractice suit. To be considered a true medical malpractice case, the situation must meet the following criteria:

-It must violate the standard of care expected from a medical professional.

-It must result in an injury cause by negligence.

-It must result in significant damage to the patient.

There are several typical scenarios that often lead to charges of malpractice, including misdiagnosis, surgery errors, unnecessary surgery, improperly prescribed medications, and failures in taking patient history, ordering tests, or recognizing symptoms of disease.

Know how to avoid it. One of the key components of medical school is developing your bedside manner.  Having a patient-oriented, friendly, and compassionate bedside manner goes a long way towards avoiding a malpractice lawsuit. Studies have shown that patients are less likely to sue doctors who apologize for any mistakes they have made in providing care. In addition, being mindful of Assisting surgeons by passing instruments all patient interactions, recommendations, and treatments is critical.  When you are with a patient, your focus should be directly on that person and providing him/her with the best care you can possibly administer.

Pay your dues. Yes, you’ll have to pay a quarterly malpractice insurance bill.  Your rate depends upon your specialty.  The highest rates are paid by Emergency Room doctors and OB/GYNs.  This cost is up to $40,000 per year.  Most doctors do not pay as much.  If you are a general practitioner, expect to pay under $10,000 for your malpractice insurance and, in most cases, even less.  Be mindful that the medical school you attend can contribute to the cost of your insurance.  Some medical schools are notorious for generating a higher rate of malpractice suits by its graduates.  This type of information is not readily available, so it’s something to consider asking about as you do your medical school research.

Stay on top of your game.  You can avoid malpractice suits by staying current on trends in diagnoses and treatments within your specialty.  Continued medical education is required for many medical professionals, and one of the benefits of this life-long learning is that you will be aware of changes in your medical specialty. Treatments that were effective five years ago have been replaced by more efficient and patient-friendly methods.  By continuing to learn more about your practice, you’ll be able to provide the most current, best care to patients.  

Medical malpractice suits are not inevitable. However, as a developing medical professional, remember that mistakes happen, and you must be prepared to be accountable for them. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.