Society relies on health care professionals to provide life-saving procedures, treatments, and medical advice. When patients suffer an illness or injury, they trust physicians to locate the source of the problem and recommend a solution based on years of special training and expertise. Doctors have a duty to uphold high standards of patient care, by law and under the Hippocratic oath. While an honest mistake is not grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, negligence resulting in injury is a reason to seek legal counsel.
Negligence and Medical Malpractice
The foundation of every medical malpractice case is a physician’s alleged negligence. When a doctor fails to exercise the proper standards of care, including giving bad advice to a patient, it isn’t necessarily malpractice. Bad advice can simply be an honest oversight. People rely on physicians for help deciding on a course of treatment based on information and symptoms the patient provides. Unfortunately, this treatment may not always be what is best, and if another physician reasonably would have given different advice in the same situation, it may be negligence.
For a case of medical negligence, you must prove four things:
- The doctor owed you a standard of care. A doctor-patient relationship must exist between you and your doctor at the time of the alleged bad advice. To do so, you must show that the doctor in question was in fact your doctor at the time of the incident.
- The doctor breached an ethical duty to uphold this standard of care. In this case, the doctor gave you bad advice. You must prove the doctor’s reason for breaching the standard of care stemmed from negligence, such as not listening to your symptoms or reading your patient chart.
- The doctor’s breach of duty caused your injury. It’s not enough to prove that a doctor was negligent and breached the acceptable standards of care. The breach must have caused you an injury. For instance, you must provide proof that taking the doctor’s bad advice worsened your condition.
- You suffered damages as a result of the negligence. If you didn’t suffer damages from the doctor’s breach of duty, there’s no point in pursuing a lawsuit.
If you can prove these four things, you likely have a case of medical negligence on your hands. Your doctor may have been distracted during your appointment, or the hospital could have mixed up your medical records. There are many types of negligence and reasons a doctor may give bad advice to a patient, but in every case the injured patient has the right to pursue recovery.
How to Establish Wrongdoing
Medical malpractice cases can be complex, with a heavy burden of proof on the victim. Establishing a doctor’s wrongdoing requires interviewing eyewitnesses, such as nurses or maintenance crewmembers, analyzing your medical records, and hiring an expert key witness to testify. The key witness can tell the jury what the defendant reasonably should have advised according to professional standards. In a case of bad advice, proving negligence is especially difficult. The doctor may have believed the actions or advice he or she provided was best based on the symptoms.
Luckily, the law recognizes the difficulties a plaintiff faces when proving medical negligence. If your injuries were the direct result of a doctor’s negligence but you can’t pinpoint exactly what the doctor did wrong, you can invoke a legal doctrine called “res ipsa loquitur,” Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.” This implies you only have to show you suffered an injury that must be the result of negligence. Consult with an expert Personal injury attorney about your bad advice incident and subsequent injuries to find out if you have the elements of a medical malpractice case.