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Starting Medical Malpractice Basics

In medical malpractice cases there is no uniform standard of care governing all doctors.

Standard of Care

A medical doctor’s error in clinical judgment does not necessarily lead to medical malpractice. Similarly, a poor outcome from medical treatment does not always mean a doctor is legally responsible.

The proper standard is related to the doctor’s education, experience, qualifications and the surrounding circumstances. Specialists are expected to have a higher skills than general practitioners in their field.

The doctor or dentist’s conduct is compared to a reasonable person in the field. That is, a “normal prudent practitioner” possessing and exercising the skill, knowledge, and judgment of the special group.

However, doctors and dentists are not expected to meet a standard of perfection. Only reasonable care is required, not perfection. “Do I have a medical malpractice case” depends on the standard.

An error in clinical judgment is also different than professional legal fault. When a doctor appropriately exercises clinical judgment, an error in judgment does not amount to medical malpractice.

Dental Malpractice Case Study

In a 2019 dental malpractice case the claimant asserted that she received negligent dental work. The claimant argued that “implants… are not an appropriate treatment for patients dealing with pain, let alone neuropathic pain.”(De Sousa v. Rogers, 2019 BCSC 128)

The claimant failed to establish that any dentists breached the standard of care. as the judges pointed out:

“[169] Ms. D. has a history of self-diagnosis. She has refused treatment when she disagrees with the professional. That is her right. But it does not constitute tortious conduct on the part of the defendants.

“[170]     Ms. D. also distrusts what dentists tell her if it is not what she wishes to hear or is not what, in her opinion, is the source of the problem.”

Important to understand an error in clinical judgment is different from medical malpractice. When the doctor appropriately exercises clinical judgment, an error in judgment does not amount to negligence.

For more about medical malpractice, learn about prescribing errors.

Tags: Dental implants, dental negligence, Standard of Care

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