What constitutes medical negligence?
Medical negligence is the legal concept that governs fault in most medical malpractice cases. When a health care professional -- whether a doctor, dentist, anesthesiologist, pharmacist, or other medical caregiver -- provides treatment that is not in line with the applicable “medical standard of care,” he or she is said to be negligent.
So, what is the medical standard of care that determines whether or not medical negligence has been committed? It typically means the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional, with a similar background and in the same medical community, would have provided under the circumstances. That is the legal yardstick against which a medical malpractice defendant’s conduct will be measured. Failure to meet the medical standard of care amounts to medical negligence.
These aspects of a medical malpractice case -- establishing the standard of care and then showing how the defendant deviated from it -- almost always require the testimony of an expert medical witness.
Having said all that, keep in mind that just because you have suffered some kind of complication or received a less-than-beneficial outcome after a medical procedure, that does not mean medical negligence has been committed. The “medical standard of care” does not call for perfection, and it does not even require a positive outcome. It simply requires that the defendant doctor performed up to the level of a competent caregiver under the circumstances.
Similarly, just because medical negligence occurred, that does not mean that you will be successful if you decide to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. Remember, establishing fault (medical negligence) is a crucial aspect of a medical malpractice case, but it also must be shown that the medical negligence in question was the cause of actual harm to the patient.