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What Are the Challenges to Proving Medical Malpractice?

Patients who suffer injuries because of their doctors’ mistakes often have a difficult case to make. Although some errors are self-evident, such as operating on the wrong body part or leaving a foreign object like a sponge in a body cavity, other failures are difficult to prove. The challenge comes down to proving two key elements: negligence and causation.

To prove negligence, an injured patient must actually prove two things: the healthcare provider failed to act like the average qualified person in that profession would have acted and that the caregiver made a mistake and the mistake is one that a reasonably competent doctor would not make. Doctors, after all, are human; they are not infallible. Medicine is a complex profession, and symptoms can indicate a wide variety of conditions. The plaintiff patient must do more than show the doctor was wrong; he or she must show that it was unreasonable under the circumstances for the doctor to be wrong.

The second element, causation, means that the doctor’s mistake directly caused the harm for which the patient is suing. There are many cases where the causal link between the mistake and the harm are readily apparent. For example, a surgeon perforates a patient’s bowel during surgery and the patient develops a life-threatening infection when waste from the intestines enters the bloodstream. But in many cases, defendant doctors can argue effectively that the harm to the patient occurred independent of the doctor’s error. A doctor could also argue that even if he or she had not made a mistake, the patient’s outcome would have been the same.

For these reasons, attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants consult medical and/or surgical experts. Expert reports are essential in helping the attorney understand the case, and expert testimony is critical for the jury’s understanding.

If you are the victim of medical malpractice, let a knowledgeable attorney at Swartz & Lynch LLP evaluate your case for free. To schedule a consultation, call 857-250-0664 or contact our Boston office online.

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