There are no guarantees in medicine -- which means that not every bad outcome is the product of malpractice, even if a doctor made a mistake.
So, if a mistake doesn't always equal malpractice, how can you know when you're a victim of it? Learn a little more about the legal definition of malpractice to see if it applies to your situation.
Think of malpractice as medical negligence
Malpractice is essentially medical negligence. In order to determine if a doctor is negligent, the law asks several different questions:
- What would another doctor with the same training, in the same general location, have done when presented with the patient's complaints or symptoms?
- Did the doctor take reasonable precautions to make sure that his or her diagnosis was correct? Did he or she order the same tests another prudent doctor would have ordered?
- Was there appropriate care after the initial diagnosis? If the condition failed to improve, did the doctor take the same steps another reasonable doctor would have in response?
If you think that your doctor failed on any of these counts, there's a strong possibility that you've been the victim of malpractice.
Learn when suing is an option
When can you sue for a medical mistake? Even if you've come to the conclusion that you're the victim of medical malpractice, suing may not really be an option.
A misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose a condition altogether doesn't always lead to actual harm to the patient. Once the error is discovered, the condition may quickly resolve with no lasting ill effects. In that case, it's very hard to sue for malpractice. On the other hand, if there's significant long-term damage, the patient has a strong case.
For example, if the doctor missed your ear infection for a couple of weeks but it healed up as soon as you finally got an antibiotic, there's really no lasting damage -- so it's hard to sue for the inconvenience you suffered. Conversely, if you've now developed permanent hearing loss as a result of the infection or you had to have surgery because the infection spread deeply into the bone behind your ear, that's something that deserves compensation.
For more information about medical misdiagnosis and malpractice, you may wish to consult with a qualified legal professional.