Recently, in December 2014, a few Chinese surgeons and nurses took selfies with patients undergoing surgery. They claimed that the operating room was soon to be closed, and they just wanted some memorabilia. The outcome: a few clinicians lost their jobs, and the rest were reprimanded. Closer to home, in June 2015, a Virginia anesthesiologist, gastroenterologist, and medical assistant were unknowingly recorded mocking, name-calling, and poking fun at a sedated patient during a colonoscopy. One recorded comment was, ‘After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op ‘I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit.’ The clinician also called the patient a ‘retard.’ Even more disturbing, one clinician declared her intent to falsify the patient’s medical record. For these offenses, a judge awarded the patient $500,000.
The Keches Law Group Medical Malpractice department receives calls every day from people describing bad care, from minor issues of rude behavior to more major concerns of misread x-rays and delays in diagnosing cancer or stroke. Often, bad care doesn’t cause harm and so does not render caregiver legally negligent. When bad care is such that it falls below accepted standards AND when it causes harm that is Medical Malpractice.
Patients have different avenues of recourse depending on whether the care they experienced was simply bad or if negligence occurred. Recourse can also depend on where poor care occurred. The Board of Registration in Medicine may investigate a physician complaint; the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is the place to lodge a complaint about a hospital. The result of an investigation by these organizations may be that bad care is corrected. Investigations by these organizations may also provide information useful in a malpractice case.
The essential elements of a medical malpractice claim are a violation of a standard of care, causation, and harm. A plaintiff (the person who brings the suit) must show that a clinician negligently did something that he was not supposed to do or that he failed to something that he was supposed to do, and an injury was caused as a result. In order to prosecute or litigate a malpractice case, the case must be supported by the testimony of an expert witness.
Medical malpractice cases seek money damages to try to make an injured person ‘whole’ again. While it is not often possible to restore a person to his or her pre-negligence condition, an award of money damages can provide closure and put the affected patient at ease.