Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is a form of negligence where an injury results from the failure of a medical professional or medical facility (doctor, nurse, medical technician, psychiatrist hospital, or healthcare facility) to exercise adequate care, skill or diligence in performing a duty. The determination of whether a duty of care is met depends upon the standard of care for that professional or facility in their community. In other words, the applicable duty arises from the accepted practices of other professionals or facilities in the same field and geographical area. In the case of a doctor who is a medical specialist, the standard of care is determined by the standard of good medical practice in that specialty within the community.

It is important to remember that the duty of a medical professional is not the duty to cure, or even to guarantee a good outcome from treatment. Medical malpractice does not occur every time medical treatment is not successful. Rather, the duty is to provide good medical care according to accepted standards in the community, or, in the case of a specialist, accepted standards in that medical specialty. Medicine is not an exact science, and doctors are not required to be right every time they make a diagnosis. A misdiagnosis can be arrived at even when all proper tests are performed accurately or evaluated by a skilled doctor with the utmost care. A misdiagnosis becomes malpractice, however, if the doctor fails to get a medical history, order the appropriate tests, or recognize observable symptoms of the illness. In oklahoma in order to prove that you were injured due to the failure of a health provider you must show:(1) The health care provider failed to exercise a duty of care and (2) The failure was the proximate cause of the injury.

Types of Malpractice

The concept of medical malpractice negligence is very broad and encompasses virtually every kind of mistake that could be made by a medical professional. The most common cases brought against doctors are: 

  • improper diagnosis
  • failure to diagnose
  • medication errors
  • surgical errors such as a slip of the knife severing a nerve during an operation
  • medical instruments, sponges, needles or other foreign objects dropped inside a patient and left there after surgery
  • errors in prenatal diagnostic testing
  • failure to advise of diagnosis
  • lack of informed consent
  • abandonment (failure to attend to a patient)
  • improperly prescribing a drug
  • failing to inform the patient of available treatments
  • continuing a treatment that has been shown to be ineffective
  • below standard treatment or incorrectly performed treatment

A doctor has a duty to you to use care and diligence to diagnose your illness so that the proper treatment can be recommended. In order to properly diagnose a condition, a doctor should ask about a patient’s medical history as well as his or her family's medical history. The doctor also should ask for a detailed description of current symptoms and should perform a thorough examination which includes necessary diagnostic tests.

Example: After hurting your wrist you go to your family doctor, but he concludes it is just a sprain and doesn't request an X-ray, which would have revealed a fracture. The fracture goes undetected and, as a result, a permanent and debilitating injury to your wrist results. The doctor may be negligent for failing to order an X-ray, or possibly for not referring you to an orthopedist.

Doctors also have a duty to disclose information pertaining to the treatment you will receive. If your condition is such that it is beyond the scope of practice of the examining doctor, or beyond the doctor’s expertise, he or she must refer you to a specialist. If your doctor fails to follow these basic principles, and injury is caused as a result, you may have a case for a malpractice claim. Medical malpractice can occur at any point in the diagnosis and treatment course. For example, the wrong chart could be placed at your hospital bedside, resulting in you being given medication that you are allergic to that causes serious harm or even death.