Minor medical errors are mistakes healthcare providers make that do not result in significant harm to their patients or anyone else. When a healthcare provider commits an act of clear negligence that causes harm, however, they may be liable for medical malpractice.
If you suffered harm because of an error made by a doctor or healthcare provider, it may be worth investigating whether that error constituted medical malpractice. If it did, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit and recover damages from the responsible party.
Definition of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice refers to any situation in which a doctor or healthcare provider commits a negligent act or omission that leads to a patient’s injury. Both elements must be present for malpractice to have occurred. The healthcare professional’s actions must be negligent, and the patient must suffer harm as a direct result of that negligence.
Acts of medical negligence constituting malpractice may include misdiagnoses, failure to diagnose, failure to prescribe and administer the proper treatment, inadequate follow-up or aftercare, and poor patient management. If any of these acts or omissions directly cause a patient to suffer harm, then the patient has a compelling medical malpractice claim and may be entitled to damages from the responsible party.
Example of Medical Malpractice
Here is an example of a situation that likely qualifies as medical malpractice. Suppose you visit a dermatologist because you are concerned about a dark splotch on your skin. After examining the spot and running cursory tests, the doctor dismisses it as a birthmark and tells you not to worry. Months pass, and the spot grows, becoming more concerning. You visit a second doctor, who conducts more extensive testing that show the spot to be not a birthmark, but potentially dangerous melanoma. Even if treatment remains possible, the prognosis may be worse due to the delayed diagnosis.
In this scenario, the first doctor may be liable for medical malpractice, as you presented a case that clearly warranted more investigation than they conducted. By not evaluating your case thoroughly to make a correct and timely diagnosis, the doctor did not uphold her standard of care, and you suffered harm as a result.
Definition of Minor Medical Error
A minor medical error is a small mistake by a doctor or healthcare provider that does not lead to any substantial patient injury. The biggest distinction setting these errors apart from malpractice is that they happen not because of negligence but due to the person being human. If your doctor made a mistake that did not cause you substantial harm, and you cannot show that she failed the standard of care, then you probably do not have a solid medical malpractice case.
Example of Minor Medical Error
Suppose you visit your dentist for a whitening procedure. The dentist applies a whitening solution to your teeth, where it is supposed to remain for 30 minutes. During the intervening time, an emergency arises with another patient in the office. This distraction delays the removal of the whitening solution until 60 minutes have passed, which causes your teeth to be extremely sensitive for several days.
This scenario likely does not qualify as medical malpractice for several reasons. First, it would be difficult to prove that the dentist’s behavior violated the standard of care. Second, you did not suffer significant or lasting harm from the error.
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