When doctors fail to live up to the standard of care consistent with the best practices in the medical community, they may be held responsible for medical malpractice. For doctors, the standard of care also includes ethical treatment of patients, so in some cases, an ethics violation may be grounds for medical malpractice. In other cases, it may be grounds for a related negligence claim.
Ethics Violations That Can Be Considered Medical Malpractice
In general, ethics violations are not considered grounds for medical malpractice. They are considered outside the scope of the law.
Some ethics violations may dramatically affect a patient’s level of care. For example, improperly prescribing medication because a doctor is being paid to promote it may be considered medical malpractice.
Failing to obtain informed consent for a medical procedure before beginning it may also be considered medical malpractice.
Non-Disclosure of Errors as Medical Malpractice?
Failing to disclose a medical error is considered a serious breach of medical ethics. However, it’s unclear whether this is considered medical malpractice. It is more likely to be medical malpractice if it affects a patient’s knowledge or ability to get necessary follow-up care, but otherwise may be considered simple negligence (see below).
Doctors, nurses, and others who go along with concealing medical errors may also be named as parties in a medical malpractice lawsuit, especially if they played an active role (such as helping to modify medical documents).
Ironically, disclosing medical errors may protect doctors from medical malpractice lawsuits.
Medical Malpractice vs. Simple Negligence
Negligence is when someone acts in a way that leads to harm of another person, but without the intent to harm. It can be applied in any type of accident case, from a car accident to a slip and fall accident. When a doctor’s ethical violation is not related to a person’s medical care, but nonetheless results in injury, a negligence lawsuit may be brought. This may extend the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit and may loosen evidence requirements, but the court is very strict about when negligence lawsuits can be brought against doctors.
If you are unsure whether your doctor’s conduct constitutes medical malpractice, we can help. Please contact Andres, Berger & Tran in Haddonfield, New Jersey for a free initial case evaluation.