When you go to a doctor or hospital for treatment, there are certain forms that you fill out and sign. These forms often contain “legalese” or legal terminology. Most patients know that this terminology is there in the event of a medical malpractice issue, but few know what the terms really mean.
It is important for you as a patient to understand what you are signing and why. If there is a problem with your care, or you are a victim of medical negligence, these documents and the language within them will be important.
To help you better understand which terminology to pay attention to, Brown, Christie & Green offers this guide explaining 5 medical malpractice terms that patients should know.
5 Medical Malpractice Terms Patients Should Know
When signing medical documents, there is a lot of terminology that you may be unfamiliar with. You may also be unaware that much of the legalese in these documents relates to medical malpractice. Take a look at these medical malpractice terms you should know:
1. Informed Consent
Informed consent is the legal term that means you as the patient agree to medical treatment after the physician explains relevant details. The physician should explain the diagnosis, treatment options, risks, possible side effects and possible alternatives. When you give your informed consent to treatment, you are accepting liability for any risks involved.
Of course, if you suffer medical negligence or experience a side effect or injury that is due to an undisclosed risk, then it may be the physician who is liable.
2. Standard of Care
The standard of care refers to the medical standard for diagnosing and treating a particular medical condition. More specifically, the standard of care can be defined as,
“That which a minimally competent physician in the same field would do under similar circumstances.”
Therefore, the standard of care is the skill and type of care provided by a reasonably competent physician in the same or similar situation. Generally, there are accepted standards of care for certain situations defined by the medical community. The definitions may vary somewhat by state, however.
The standard of care is sometimes called the “legal yardstick” for determining whether a physician’s actions constitute negligence. In medical malpractice cases, expert witnesses often give their professional opinions about the standard of care and whether the physician upheld the standard during diagnosis and treatment.
3. Medical Negligence
Physicians have a duty of care to treat the patient in an appropriate way while upholding the standard of care. If they fail to do this, then they may be guilty of committing medical negligence. Medical negligence is often broken down into two categories:
- Errors of Commission – An error of commission occurs when a doctor does something he or she should not have done. Examples include ordering the wrong test, prescribing a medication that is contraindicated or performing surgery on the wrong body part.
- Errors of Omission – An error of omission occurs when a doctor fails to do something that he or she should have done. Examples include failing to diagnose a patient, neglecting to give a patient needed medication or delaying treatment.
Physicians are not the only ones who may be negligent, however. Medical facilities, nursing homes, pharmacies and nurses can all commit medical negligence. All healthcare providers have a duty to provide the standard of care as they diagnose, treat or care for patients.
4. Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is the overarching term for what happens when a healthcare provider provides substandard or negligent care that causes harm to the patient. In order to file a medical malpractice claim, the patient has the burden of establishing the following:
- That a doctor-patient relationship exists
- That the doctor was negligent (violated the standard of care)
- That the doctor’s negligence caused harm to the patient
- The patient suffered damages as a result of the harm
Damages refers to the actual harm a patient suffers due to medical negligence. In short, the doctor has damaged you by his or her acts or omissions. The goal of a medical malpractice claim is to recover damages. Examples of damages in a medical malpractice claim include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
While there is no way to compensate a patient for a tragic injury, or a family for a tragic death, the purpose of a medical malpractice claim is to restore the victim to where he or she would have been had the injury not happened.
Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
If you have suffered an injury that you believe is the result of medical negligence, contact Brown, Christie & Green to find out if you have a medical malpractice case. Our Houston medical malpractice attorney can review the facts surrounding your injury and help you determine if you have an actionable claim.
If you do have an actionable claim, you can count on the skill, experience and resources that Brown, Christie & Green has to offer. To request a free consultation, call our office at 1-800-600-4210. You can also contact us online by filling out our online form.