Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the country, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Massachusetts residents are not immune from instances of medical malpractice. This legal concept means that a medical provider has fallen below the required standard of care expected of a similarly situated medical professional in the community. Falling below the standard of care is known usually as negligence. There are numerous legal considerations important to the medical malpractice area.
First, note that not every case of medical carelessness results in a valid medical malpractice claim. The negligence must also be the substantial cause of the claimed injury. For instance, if the patient is made to wait in the emergency room for several hours, and dies of her terminal, untreatable case of cancer just before they call her name, that's likely not medical malpractice. The patient died from the cancer and not the emergency room carelessness, and she would have died shortly in any event.
It's been reported that medical errors kill some 200,000 patients per year in this country alone. However, many malpractice claims are so complex that in the end no funds are received. For that reason, a malpractice lawyer will often initially have the records in a matter reviewed by an independent medical specialist in the subject specialty before accepting the case. The lawyer acts as a screening mechanism in that respect.
One important note: become interactive in your medical care. Speak up when something doesn't seem right, and ask questions about whatever may be puzzling or bothering you. Bring a trusted friend or family member into the mix, and let them communicate your doubts and questions to the physician. If you feel that you've reached an unacceptable point, then the first consideration is to seek out and consult with experienced malpractice counsel to make sure your rights are adequately protected and preserved.
Massachusetts residents can protect themselves from medical malpractice by becoming proactive and engaging medical providers in an ongoing dialogue for maximizing the flow of information. This does not mean to suggest that you should distrust your physician, because trust is an important value to the ongoing relationship. However, carelessness is something that can happen when people are overwhelmingly busy, and it pays to keep your reasonable questions and comments on the table.
Source: Forbes, "10 Things You Want To Know About Medical Malpractice," Demetrius Cheeks, May 16, 2013