Clinical negligence explained: understanding medical malpractice and its impact on patients

When we seek medical help, we place our trust and health in the hands of professionals.
However, sometimes things do not go as planned, and the care provided falls below the
expected standard, leading to what is known as clinical negligence or medical malpractice.

This can have a profound impact on patients, both physically and emotionally. Understanding
the nuances of clinical negligence, how it occurs, and its consequences can empower you to
seek the appropriate help and redress, such as consulting with solicitors in Malton and
surrounding areas if you believe you have been a victim.

The nature of clinical negligence

Clinical negligence arises when a healthcare professional provides care that falls below the
accepted standard, causing harm or injury to a patient. This can involve actions taken or
failings where necessary actions were not taken.

To establish a claim, it must be proven that the care was not up to the standard expected of a
reasonably competent professional in that field and that this directly caused the patient harm.

Common examples of clinical negligence

 Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis leading to a worsening of the patient's condition
 Surgical errors, including wrong-site surgery or infections acquired during surgery
 Prescription and medication errors
 Poor management of pregnancy and childbirth, leading to injuries to the baby or
mother
 Failure to obtain informed consent before treatment

The impact of these errors can be devastating, leading to long-term health issues, additional
medical costs, and sometimes, irreversible damage.

Image source: Pexels

Understanding the legal framework

The legal principles surrounding clinical negligence are complex and vary by jurisdiction. In
general, the law requires proving that the healthcare provider owed a duty of care to the
patient, breached this duty by failing to meet the standard of care, and directly caused harm or
damage to the patient as a result. Detailed documentation and expert testimonies are often
essential components of a successful claim.

For more in-depth information on the legal aspects of clinical negligence, resources such as
the comprehensive study on medical malpractice provide valuable insights into how these
cases are assessed and the challenges involved in proving negligence.

Key legal considerations

1. The statute of limitations: This defines the maximum time after an event within which
legal proceedings may be initiated.
2. The standard of proof: Typically, the claimant must prove the case on the balance of
probabilities, meaning it is more likely than not that the negligence occurred as
claimed.
3. Damages: The compensation awarded to the claimant can include costs for additional
medical treatment, compensation for pain and suffering, and sometimes punitive
damages.

Understanding these legal principles is crucial for anyone considering pursuing a clinical
negligence claim. It highlights the importance of seeking expert legal advice to navigate the
complexities of the legal system effectively.

The role of consent in clinical negligence

Consent plays a pivotal role in medical treatment and, consequently, in cases of clinical
negligence. Patients must be given enough information about the proposed treatment, its
risks, benefits, and alternatives to make an informed decision.

Failure to obtain informed consent before proceeding with treatment can be considered
negligence, especially if the treatment leads to harm or injury that the patient was not made
aware of.

This aspect of medical law underscores the importance of clear communication between
healthcare providers and patients. It ensures that patients are fully aware of what to expect
and are in a position to accept or decline treatment based on a full understanding of the
potential outcomes.

For further insights into the intricacies of informed consent and its legal implications,
examining detailed analyses such as those found in the study on informed consent and
medical malpractice can provide a more comprehensive understanding.