What Is Medical Negligence (Medical Malpractice)?

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. 

What is medical negligence

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.

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What is not classified as medical negligence?

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.

What may constitute medical negligence?

  • Surgery or medical treatment performed without reasonable care or skill
  • Failure to provide timely and appropriate treatment
  • Prescription of incorrect medications
  • Incorrect or delayed diagnosis of a medical condition.
  • A patient is not warned or advised of the risks associated with a certain treatment.
  • Test results are not reported or reported incorrectly by a medical professional.
  • Existing medical condition is made worse due to the actions of a medical professional.
  • Supply of a faulty medical product, device or appliance.

What is not classified as medical negligence?

  • Minor or trivial grievances
  • Harm resulting from inherent risks in procedures
  • Patient is simply not unhappy with the outcome of surgery

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Last update on:
May 29, 2018
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.


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