Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Medical Malpractice Definition:

Negligence of a health care professional in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of a patient.

Related Terms: Informed Consent

In Munoz v Clark, Justice Hill adopted these words:

"Medical malpractice is negligence of a health care professional in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of a patient.

"In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must prove the following elements: (1) The physician owes the patient a duty of care and was required to meet or exceed a certain standard of care to protect the patient from injury; (2) the physician breached this duty or deviated from the applicable standard of care; and (3) the patient was injured and the injury proximately resulted from the physician's breach of the standard of care.

"The elements of negligence are never presumed. Therefore, expert testimony is generally required to establish the appropriate standard of care and causation because such matters are outside the knowledge of the average person without specialized training. In certain medical malpractice claims, expert testimony is not required because the standard of care and causation are within the common knowledge of a layperson. But, the application of the common knowledge exception is extremely limited."

In Yee, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania defined the term as follows;

"Medical malpractice is ... the unwarranted departure from generally accepted standards of medical practice resulting in injury to a patient, including all liability-producing conduct arising from the rendition of professional medical services.

"The underlying elements of negligence in a medical malpractice claim, mirroring those of a basic negligence claim, are more specifically described as a duty owed by the physician to the patient, a breach of that duty by the physician, that the breach was the proximate cause of the harm suffered, and the damages suffered were a direct result of the harm.

"One of the most distinguishing features of a medical malpractice suit is, in most cases, the need for expert testimony, which may be necessary to elucidate complex medical issues to a jury of laypersons. In other words, because the negligence of a physician encompasses matters not within the ordinary knowledge and experience of laypersons, a medical malpractice plaintiff must present expert testimony to establish the applicable standard of care, the deviation from that standard, causation and the extent of the injury."


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