Jurors are slated to decide soon whether a 55-year-old man’s death in a Georgia hospital was the result of medical malpractice or simply the result of an aggressive infection over which doctors had no control.
The unfortunate reality is that not every person who dies in the hospital – even after receiving medical treatment – is a victim of medical malpractice. In fact, it may not even be medical malpractice when a doctor makes an error. Determining whether medical malpractice may be at issue involves ascertaining whether the medical professional failed to abide by the applicable standard of care. That standard of care is different from Asheville, NC than it is in Los Angeles, California. It’s different for an emergency room doctor than it is for a neurologist. It’s different for a critical care nurse than it is for a paramedic.
In the case of Harper v. Vick, et al, plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit, filed by the decedent’s widow, alleges the specialists – including a pulmonologist and an ear, nose and throat doctor – failed to open her husband’s airway to properly treat the breathing problems she says killed her husband.
The ear, nose and throat specialist, however, insists the decedent was perfectly stable and his airway was not blocked at the time he examined him. Meanwhile, it is the contention of the pulmonologist that the cause of decedent’s death was a major, aggressive infection. Both doctors insist they followed the appropriate standards of care and therefore aren’t liable for medical malpractice.
The trial is being covered by Courtroom View Network (CVN).
As our Asheville medical malpractice lawyers know, proving medical negligence is almost never a simple matter. The elements that must be proven include:
- Negligence. Although, unlike ordinary negligence claims, plaintiffs have to show not only was there an error, but that the doctor did something a reasonably good doctor would not have done or else the doctor failed to do something a doctor who is reasonably competent would have done, given the particulars of the situation. There is nothing in the law that requires doctors to be perfect or never make mistakes. It does, however, require that they act within the standard of care expected for others of that same educating, training, experience or community. Unlike in most other negligence claims, medical malpractice cases require an expert witness – a doctor or other medical professional of the same or similar standing as the defendant – to attest to the standard of care and the alleged breach of it.
- Proximate Cause. Even if a doctor acted with negligence, the plaintiff won’t win the case unless they can show the injuries sustained were a direct result of the doctor’s negligence. In most cases, proving that the doctor’s actions caused the injury is done through expert witness testimony.
- Injuries. Patient has to prove that his injuries were costly, either in terms of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment or loss of consortium. In many cases, this too requires an expert witness, particularly as it pertains to the future medical costs, which will rely heavily on prognosis.
The burden of proof in medical malpractice lawsuits is always on the plaintiff.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Doctors accused of failing to properly treat fatal breathing problem face Atlanta medical malpractice trial, July 8, 2016, By Arlin Crisco, CVN
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