Medical Negligence

Medical Negligence Video

Hi, and welcome to this video about Medical Negligence.

To be negligent means to behave or act in a manner that fails to take the same care or diligence a reasonable person would take in the same situation. The central concept of negligence is that each member of society has a duty to behave or act in a manner that avoids creating an unreasonable risk of harm to another; this is known in law as the reasonable person standard. Central to this “duty”, is taking responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of one’s conduct.

When a person’s actions do not meet the reasonable person standard and are likely to cause foreseeable injury or harm to another, their property, or both, their behavior is called negligent conduct.

There are three degrees of negligence, correlating to the degree of care expected to be exercised in a given situation. The degree of care is commensurate with the risk of harm- the greater the potential for harm, the greater the care one should exercise. Due to differences in state statutes, there is no uniform definition, but in general, the degrees of negligence are:

  • Ordinary negligence, or failure to exercise the degree of care expected of an ordinary person in a like situation
  • Gross Negligence, which is a blatant failure to exercise a degree of care that demonstrates a complete indifference to the safety of another
  • Slight Negligence, or failure to exercise the extraordinary degree of care expected in a given situation to avoid injuring others

All healthcare professionals owe a duty of care to their patients. The duty of care begins the moment the patient is accepted for treatment or begins to receive services and obligates the professional to adhere to a standard of care.

While healthcare professionals are familiar with standards of care that assist them with appropriate diagnostic, therapeutic, or other clinical procedures; these practice guidelines are not what legally defines the standard of care. Instead, the legal concept “standard of care” is the care that a reasonably competent, similarly qualified healthcare professional, practicing in the same or similar circumstances would be expected to provide for a patient. In the course of caring for a patient, whether by their actions or the failure to act, if a healthcare professional deviates from this standard of care, their behavior becomes medical negligence.
the legal concept of the standard of care

While the standard of care is most often derived from case law, it can also be based on:

  • State statutes, rules and regulations
  • Licensing Boards’ Regulations (Standards of Practice)
  • Professional Practice Acts
  • Healthcare Accreditation Organization Standards
  • Professional Association’s Code of Ethics
  • Clinical Practice Guidelines
  • Consensus of professionals in the industry

It is important for the healthcare professional to understand that the standard of care concept is not uniform nor static. It evolves continuously and varies drastically between disciplines and specialties. Lastly, the standard of care is not the standard of perfection, but rather the minimum standard.
standard of care is the minimum

Expert testimony, usually by similarly qualified practitioners, is used to establish standard of care. Sometimes, the actions of the person breaching the standard of care are so evident, expert testimony may not be needed. This rule of evidence is called res ipsa loquitur, which is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.”

Medical negligence becomes medical malpractice when the healthcare professional’s negligent actions cause harm. Known as patient harm, it is defined as any negative consequence resulting from or contributed by medical management. Patient harm can range from physical injury, or wrong site surgery, to misdiagnosis, medication errors, and hospital-acquired infections. Fundamentally, care that causes the patient’s condition to worsen, results in complications, or necessitates additional treatment causes patient harm.

Negligent conduct is not the same as medical malpractice. If the negligent conduct does not harm the patient or negatively impact their health, then medical negligent behavior does not rise to the level of malpractice. However, a healthcare professional who acts in a medically negligent manner can be disciplined by his or her state licensing board, even if the acts performed did not cause injury to the patient.

Any licensed healthcare professional, even a hospital can be held liable for medical malpractice; however, this can vary from state to state.

As a cause of action or basis for a tort, or civil claim, negligence laws provide a remedy when medical negligence causes harm to a patient. Malpractice claims can result in the payment of a monetary award for damages to the claimant as compensation for their loss or injury.

Each state has one of two basic types of negligence laws that affect the amount of damages a claimant can recover:

  • Contributory Negligence is when the plaintiff’s own failure to exercise reasonable care increases the likelihood that an incident occurs. State law determines how contributory negligence impacts the injured party’s ability to receive compensation for damages or loss. Some states allow the reduction of benefit if the claimant is partially responsible, while others barred them from any claim for damages if they are even 1% at fault.
  • Comparative negligence is when the blame is apportioned between parties based on how much each party contributed to an event that caused the harm and reduces the compensation an injured party can recover by their percentage of fault.

To minimize the risk of medical malpractice, you can:

  • Stay current on the latest evidence-based practice or clinical recommendations in your area of practice.
  • Know and follow both your state’s practice act and facility’s policies and procedures.
  • Develop good patient-caregiver relationships. Treat patients with respect. Communicate honestly and clearly with patients and listen to what they have to say.
  • Document accurately and thoroughly.
  • Be sure to follow up, whether on assessment findings or care delegated to others.

Thanks for watching this overview of medical negligence. I hope this helped! See you next time!


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: August 3, 2023