The Line between Medical Judgment and Malpractice
When a patient gets injured as a result of an interaction with a medical professional (whether that interaction be surgery, treatment, or something else), the first thought that comes to mind to many individuals is that the medical professional committed medical malpractice. While retaining the services of an experienced Miami medical malpractice attorney can be crucial to ensuring that the injured patient receives as much compensation as possible, things are not always so cut and dry. In reality, not every injury caused by a medical professional rises to the level of medical malpractice. Importantly, the injury must be the result of preventable error on the part of the medical professional. This requirement excludes issues that were either unavoidable or unforeseeable, such as surgeries with a high risk of failure. Additionally, malpractice is not applicable to matters in which the medical professional exercised his/her medical judgment. As an example, a Florida cardiologist was held not liable in his interactions with a patient who died of cardiac arrest one day after seeing the cardiologist in an emergency room. Complaining of severe chest pain, the patient’s estate alleged that the cardiologist failed to diagnose a dissection of the patient’s artery, because he did not perform a sonogram. In response, the cardiologist asserted that the sonogram, if performed, could have been fatal to the patient and that, in his judgment, was not worth the risk.
What is Medical Malpractice?
From a legal point of view, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional commits preventable error, by not adhering to an established standard of care, which directly led to an injury to a patient. Through this, a number of elements must be established. First, that the injured individual was a patient of the medical professional. Second, that the medical professional failed to adhere to a standard of care. Third, that the injury was a direct cause of this failure. And fourth, that the error was preventable.
Additionally, Florida law holds that an injured patient must show that the injury caused by the preventable error of the medical professional was not within the realm of reasonably foreseeable results of the surgical, medicinal, or diagnostic procedure from the medical professional. In other words, if it would have been foreseeable that the procedure would lead to the injury complained of by the patient, then there is no medical malpractice. By way of example, when one is put under anesthesia as a requirement of going into surgery, there is always the possibility that the person may not recover. As such, death is a foreseeable consequence of the procedure of receiving anesthesia. Accordingly, if a death does occur, unless it can be proven that the anesthesiologist injected an inordinate amount of anesthetic into the patient, or some other error, then the anesthesiologist cannot be held liable for medical malpractice.
As illustrated above, medical malpractice arises when the medical professional does not abide by the appropriate standard of care and, as a result, commits preventable error that causes an injury. However, part of the standard of care is an exercise of medical judgment. Medical judgment can be a defense if the medical professional can prove that he/she acted in good faith in performing his/her duties on a patient. In other words, since medicine is not an exact science, medical professionals will not be held to be guarantors of the results of medical treatment. To be able to counter this contention, an experienced medical malpractice attorney will use the testimony of expert witnesses to show that the good faith of the medical professional was inaccurate, based on the standard of care that should have been used.
Seek Legal Advice
If you suffered an injury due to an interaction with a medical professional, and you are curious whether it was a preventable error, contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. We have years of experience in malpractice cases, and understand the distinction between medical judgment and medical malpractice. Contact us today for an initial consultation.