What is the difference between medical malpractice and negligence?

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Malpractice vs. Negligence

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, hospital, 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.

Order a free copy of one of our books, consumer guides and/or reports for more information on this and a number of other topics.

 

Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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Experienced DC Workers' Comp, Long Term Disability & Accident Lawyer