Medical Malpractice

Topics: Health care provider, Patient, Health care Pages: 5 (1968 words) Published: March 31, 2002
Medical Malpractice:
Is Your Care Below Standard?
Imagine yourself lying on an operating table, motionless, quiet. Above, you notice people standing over you. You try to speak but the words just cannot come out. Your arms feel as if they are plastered to the table. You begin to stand up but feel as if weights are strapped to your back and you are bound to the table. Suddenly you feel a sharp pain in your midsection. In and out, you see a surgeon slicing your body open with a scalpel. Every motion the masked person makes is as if you are being torn apart from the inside out. One would hope this would simply be a nightmare and they will wake up and everything will be fine. In this instance, this person will come to and realize that they had just gotten the surgery that they needed, while they were still conscious.

This is not a horror story meant to scare anyone, this has actually happened on a number of occasions. People have actually woken up during there own surgery to all of the pain and the agony that would be expected of such a procedure. The only problem with that situation is, they cannot do anything about it because they are in a temporary paralysis. This is the sort of thing that can go wrong, among many other things, during a routine medical procedure. Not all cases are nearly as extreme as the one described, while others can be much more.

Malpractice can be a difficult subject to understand. The word malpractice is used in many ways to describe different circumstances. The actual term negligence refers to the carelessness of a professional or an associate (Cazalas 17). Although each situation is looked upon by a case-by-case basis, there is a system in which carelessness is determined. Under the eyes of the law, there is a scale which measures whether or not a situation is considered to be carelessness or not. This scale is called the standard of care. The standard of care describes what a prudent person, who acts under circumstances that are similar to the ones in question, would do. This prudent person is nobody specific; it is just a fictional person made up by the legal system who is completely average in every way. This person is an average person who is equipped with the average skills and knowledge that pertains to this field of work, and also contains an average amount of judgment and common sense (Cazalas 19-23). The actions of what this average professional would do in this situation are used as a sort of measuring device to determine whether the actions taken by the professional in question were appropriate.

If what the person in question did met the requirements of what the standard of care calls for, then there has been no account of negligence. There are four main points that actually make up negligence. There must first be a situation in which the standard of care must be given under the given circumstances. Failing to follow the standard of care begins the case of negligence. After not satisfactorily completing the standard, there is an apparent setup for harm to the patient resulting from this failure to meet the requirements of care. When an injury is inflicted on the patient, that relates to the standard of care being violated, and that seals the case. Those are the four ingredients needed to complete a case of negligence (Cazalas 18).

There are two specific cases that show how the standard of care is used in the determination of cases in certain situations. They both take place in Canada, and they both pertain to nurses that had left their posts to go on there coffee breaks. One of these cases was proved to be negligent, while the other was proven not to be a case of negligence. These are both taken from the publication Nursing and the Law:

"In Child v. Vancouver General Hospital [71 W.W.R. 656(1969)], the nurse left for a coffee break after the physician in charge had seen the patient who, as the physician later testified, appeared "much...
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