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According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, less than one percent of all doctors in America will face any serious medical malpractice claims each year. However, in another recent study, the Institute also found that approximately 98,000 patients in the United States are injured or killed annually as a result of medical errors.
In general, medical malpractice can be defined as professional negligence, by either failing to act or acting in a manner that deviates from a standard of care. Though the vast majority of medical malpractice claims are brought against surgeons, nearly all health care professionals can be held liable for medical negligence resulting in personal injury or death.
Furthermore, there are also a number of medical mistreatments leading to injuries which can be considered malpractice, including:
- Failure in diagnosing a disease
- Improper use of medical devices
- Error in prescribing medication or drugs
- Failure to correctly treat a disease or condition
- Blunder occurring during a surgery or medical procedure
- Failure to obtain patient’s permission prior to performing an operation (informed consent)
In Pennsylvania medical malpractice claims, there is a limited amount of time in which to file a claim. However, this time period does not usually begin to run until the victim discovers the injury, or reasonably should have discovered the injury.
Medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania can oftentimes be complex, with multiple parties possibly sharing in the liability (doctors, hospitals, other medical personnel, medical device/equipment manufacturers, etc.)
In almost all medical malpractice cases, the use of expert testimony is vital to success. Typically, the expert is another doctor in the same or similar field of the doctor that is accused of committing the medical malpractice. The expert’s role is to testify as to the standard of care, and how the doctor being sued deviated from that standard of care.
Though nearly any and all health care professionals are susceptible to a malpractice suit, Pennsylvania does maintain a Good Samaritan Statute. This law effectively gives doctors and nurses who were called to the scene of emergency medical situations some immunity from malpractice claims.