The classic legal definition of medical malpractice is that the healthcare provider did or didn’t do something that a reasonably prudent healthcare provider would have done or not done in the same or similar circumstances.
Think about it like this. When you hire a hospital and physicians to care for you, they’re promising that they know what they’re doing—you aren’t just hiring a random person off the street! They expect to be paid for their services. In exchange, they’re promising to provide you with reasonable quality health care, called the standard of care.
There’s a hospital standard of care that’s different from an ambulatory surgery center’s standard of care. There’s a cardiologist standard of care that differs from the standard of care for neurologists, and so on.
Some people have the mistaken belief that there can’t be medical malpractice unless a physician or nurse intentionally or deliberately harms a patient. That’s wrong, though. In fact, that’s the legal standard for crimes.
Civil cases, like medical malpractice, don’t require evidence of intent. Instead, medical malpractice cases require the plaintiff to prove negligence. This means that the focus is on the healthcare provider missing the mark, or making a medical error or mistake, as compared to the standard of care.
I’ve handled all kinds of medical malpractice cases, but have yet to meet a doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse, or hospital whom I felt, in their hearts, intended to harm a patient. I’ve met hundreds, though, who made medical errors that fell beneath the standard of care.
To prove medical negligence in Texas, a plaintiff must prove:
· A physician-patient, hospital-patient, or healthcare provider-patient relationship.
· What the standard of care is.
· How the healthcare provider made an error or mistake and violated the standard of care.
· How the medical error caused harm to the patient.
· The harms and losses to the patient because of the medical error.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.