MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Medical Malpractice

By

Charles Sabatino

, JD, American Bar Association

Last full review/revision May 2021| Content last modified May 2021
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION

People can sue health care practitioners if they feel they have been injured. A wide variety of causes of action and legal proceedings may be involved. However, successful medical malpractice lawsuits generally require proof of all of the following:

  • The care provided was below the ordinary standard of care that would be provided by similar health care practitioners under similar circumstances.

  • A professional relationship existed between the health care practitioner and the injured person.

  • The person was harmed because of the deviation from the standard of care.

Concern about lawsuits sometimes puts pressure on doctors to act in ways that are not necessarily in the best interest of their patients. For example, to avoid even a small risk of a lawsuit, doctors may order tests or treatments that have more risks than benefits to their patient. Risks of unnecessary tests can include radiation exposure and the occasional false test result, which can lead to further unnecessary tests, some of which may have complications (such as injury or radiation exposure), or even a false diagnosis and unnecessary treatment. If the chance of finding a problem that requires treatment is extremely small, the risks of testing may outweigh the benefits.

Patients should ask their doctor to discuss the relative benefits and risks Balancing risks and benefits Before recommending treatment, doctors weigh the potential risk of harm from a treatment against its potential benefit. (See also Overview of Medical Decision Making and The Science of Medicine... read more of any test as well as proposed treatment before action is taken. Most doctors understand that the best defense against malpractice lawsuits is providing excellent medical care and building close, trusting, collaborative relationships with their patients.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSONAL VERSION
Others also read
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Test your knowledge
Default Surrogate Decision Making
When people are unable to make their own healthcare decisions, someone with authority to make these decisions for them is needed (a surrogate decision maker). A document called a “healthcare power of attorney” may specify such a person. Sometimes a court will appoint a guardian with this authority. But in the absence of a designated surrogate, most states will appoint a so-called default surrogate decision maker, usually the next of kin. Assuming the person is married with living adult children, siblings, and parents, which of the following people would most likely be named surrogate decision maker in most states?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
TOP