The term “medical malpractice” usually brings to mind doctor or hospital negligence, errors in treatment, anesthesia or surgery, or some element of worsened medical condition. A key aspect of the legal concept is injury to the patient, and that injury is often physical. However, the scope of medical malpractice may be broader in certain circumstances.
The New York Court of Appeals is tackling the issue of what constitutes medical malpractice. In the case, a doctor from Long Island had a nine-month affair with a patient. The patient sued the doctor for her mental distress and economic loss. She had gone to the doctor for care for panic attacks and depression, and the affair began after the patient had been in treatment for 18 months. In the lower court, a jury found that the doctor was 75 percent liable for the patient’s injuries, and awarded her $416,500 in damages.
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What constitutes medical malpractice varies from state to state. In most states, there must be a doctor-patient relationship such that the doctor owes a certain duty of care to the patient. The mistakes by the doctor are judged according to the degree of skill and care that a reasonably competent doctor would use in similar circumstances.
Many factors are taken into account regarding the circumstances, including the facilities and resources available at the time and in that geographic area and any extraordinary aspects of the situation. Experts are often used to assist in establishing the required standard of care. Additionally, there must be a connection between the doctor error or negligence and the patient’s injury.
If you, or a loved one, believes that you are experiencing signs of a worsening condition following a medical treatment, it is recommended that you contact an attorney who understands medical malpractice. He or she can review the circumstances behind your claim and determine if you have any legal recourse available.