Envision the following scenario:
You’re relaxing with some friends and lamenting the absence of one who hasn’t been doing well, health-wise. Someone talks about how it seems the friend’s condition has gotten worse, rather than better, since they started seeing that new doctor. Another one follows up with a call to “sue the blankety-blank quack.”
Is there a case?
This hypothetical situation comes back to the question: “What is medical negligence?”
Unsurprisingly, the legal system requires a higher bar of proof on the part of the plaintiff than do supportive friends.
Medical negligence is determined by “standard of care”
In order to be negligent in the legal sense of the word, the doctor must have fallen short of what is defined as the acceptable “standard of care.”
Standard of care is a moving target itself. It’s considered to be the steps that a reasonable and competent professional in the local area would exercise given the circumstances.
For example, a psychiatrist who prescribes anti-depressants may need to see the patient every 3-6 months to monitor the effects of a prescription.
But ultimately, the final judgment on whether the standard of care was met is going to be determined by the courts and likely after hearing several expert witnesses.
The mere fact a patient has gotten worse since seeing a medical professional is not grounds for negligence, presuming the physician followed reasonable standards of care.
Furthermore, even if negligence is proved, it’s only one step in the process of having a full-blown medical malpractice claim. To that end, negligence must be joined with legal causation (the doctor must be able to reasonably foresee that the negligence would have whatever the ultimate effects were) and damages (the patient must have suffered actual harm from the negligence).
It’s all a high bar to hurdle, but not an impossible one and why you should always seek the counsel of a legal professional before making any formal claims of medical negligence.