Someone called me yesterday about a wrongful death case in D.C. after a relative died from what sounded like inadequate medical care by an HMO here in the District.
I explained some of the elements of a medical malpractice case in D.C. - the standard of care, proving the malpractice caused the person's injury or conditions, the damages allowed in wrongful death cases, etc.
After we finished, she asked a great question - what's the difference between negligence and medical malpractice?
Usually there is no difference. Medical malpractice lawyers tend to use the terms interchangeably - I know I do.
Medical malpractice is negligence by a doctor, nurse, hosptital, HMO (any healthcare provider providing medical care to a patient) where they fail to do what a reasonable and prudent doctor, nurse, etc. would do in the same situation. The harm is to a patient. Many times this is also called medical negligence.
Negligence is anyone failing to do what a reasonable person would do in the same situation - it can be a driver, store owner, landlord, anyone who does something (not intentionally) that hurts someone else, usually because they weren't being careful.
So if an anesthesiologist doesn't monitor a patient during surgery and she is injured due to lack of oxygen, that is medical malpractice. If the same anesthesiologist runs over someone in the hospital parking lot, that's negligence.
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