Medical negligence or malpractice occurs when a doctor or other medical professional acts or fails to act in a way that is below the acceptable standard of practice for the medical community in Australia, and as a result a patient is harmed or injured.
Practitioners who may be liable for medical negligence include: doctors, surgeons, nurses, midwives, dentists, pharmacists and radiologist. Such practitioners are required to hold professional indemnity insurance which will pay out on a compensation claim made against them.
Not all medical errors are what the law classifies as “negligent” and just because a patient suffers a negative outcome from a medical treatment does not mean they have an automatic right to sue.
An error in medical practice will only be considered "negligent" if the healthcare practitioner has failed to take "reasonable care". The law does not hold medical professionals to an impossible standard by requiring them to act "perfectly", but rather, medical professionals must merely take "reasonable care" in treating and advising patients.
Often, negative outcomes from medical treatments are due to inherent risks associated with that treatment. In fact, the majority of complications that occur in surgery are not due to medical negligence even though the patient may be dissatisfied with the outcome.
In addition, a person must generally have suffered serious physical, psychological or economic harm to be eligible to make a medical negligence claim. Therefore minor or trivial grievances over the way a medical professional has behaved or near misses (such as almost operating on the wrong limb or patient) will, in most cases, not provide grounds to make a medical negligence claim no matter how traumatic such situations may be.
Medical negligence and malpractice is a very complicated area of law and legal advice is highly recommended to patients considering making a claim.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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