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What is Medical Negligence?



Medical negligence is a term used to describe malpractice by a health care provider. In the main, this will be due to medical errors, but can also be applied to the standard of care. It is extremely important to remember that should a routine procedure that was correctly administered fail to provide the desired outcome, it would not be regarded as medical negligence. This is because, while the best efforts are made to reach a satisfactory conclusion, there is no way of guaranteeing an outcome with complete certainty.

In the following instances it will almost always be ruled that medical negligence has occurred:

  • If the patient has been misled.

  • Further treatment has been administered than was previously agreed upon. However, if there was reasonable cause to go beyond the agreed treatment this may be taken into consideration.

  • If the procedure was undertaken by a member of staff that was not qualified to do so, or if it was outside of their area of expertise.

  • Failure to administer treatment competently, regardless of its nature.

  • Holding back information that could otherwise influence the patient in their choices with regard to the treatment.

  • Failure to advise the patient of the potential arguments for and against a course of action or treatment.

  • Withholding information that could prevent the patient from making an informed choice about their treatment.

Examples of medical negligence are wide and varied, with many of the more dramatic instances making headline news in our daily papers. Stories of patients having the wrong limb amputated or of medical practitioners leaving foreign bodies behind after surgery can be hugely worrying for people who are waiting for an operation. It should be made clear that these instances are extremely rare, and it is for this reason that they make the headlines.

There are, however, instances where serious errors are made and it is only right that the patient should have the opportunity to bring these transgressions to the attention of the relative health authority.

Across the web, there are many internet sites that can offer step-by-step guidance on how to report medical negligence. You will find that many of these will be able to make a claim on your behalf if you have suffered neglect whilst in the hands of your health care provider.

While it is understandable that a patient who has been on the receiving end of a carelessly carried out procedure would feel the need to complain, it is important to remember that this does not always constitute medical negligence. If there is no apparent damage as a result of the carelessness there will be no grounds upon which a claim can be made.

To summarise, there are two specific areas that need to be met in order to pursue a medical negligence claim. These are:

  1. That the patient has received an injury, be it mental or physical, as a direct result of the medical negligence.

  2. That the patient’s standard of care was below what should be expected of a competent professional in that area of medicine.

If you feel that you have been a victim of medical negligence, it is advisable that you contact a professional to discuss your position further.