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What is Clinical Negligence?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 April 2018
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Clinical negligence, which might also be called medical negligence or medical malpractice, is a term in the UK that could be applied to the wrongdoing of a medical practitioner. This doesn’t have to be a doctor and could be therapists or other medical professionals that provide varying types of care. When someone alleges clinical negligence it means that either by omission or straying from treatment standards, the practitioner has caused some form of actionable injury. This could be a physical or emotional injury that seriously impacting the person’s life, and a lawsuit might occur to hold the practitioner financially responsible for his acts or failures.

There are a number of things that might be considered clinical negligence. A doctor or other practitioner could be sued for it if they failed to diagnose a condition that reasonably should have been diagnosed, or if they diagnose something incorrectly. Applying the wrong treatment and refusing to treat a condition are two negligent acts that might draw a lawsuit. Sometimes treatments themselves can be considered under this heading and companies that make treatments like medications or medical devices might be sued for clinical negligence if these medicines or devices cause injury.

Injury is sometimes difficult to define in clinical negligence cases because it may vary. Sometimes it’s very obvious; the doctor who cuts off the wrong arm has clearly created specific bodily injury. More subtle injuries could occur with things like failure to diagnose. The mentally ill person who is improperly diagnosed for years and suffers through years of inability to work or to be successful in family life would need to prove this very clearly, which isn’t always easy.

The way most clinical negligence cases are then decided is based on the type of financial liability the practitioner has for his or her mistakes and failures. How much does it cost the mentally ill person who was not treated correctly, and how much will it cost the person who is now a double amputee? Attorneys assisting in these cases determine the cost value of cases, making certain there is legitimate financial hardship for their clients, which may exist for a long time due to the practitioner’s mistakes.

Such cases can go to trial juries in many areas or they may never get to trial because of out-of-court settlement has been reached. Some cases are dropped if the suit doesn’t seem actionable or if attorney fees are too high for a patient to continue. Notably, attorneys on a contingency basis undertake many malpractice or negligence cases, meaning they are paid only if they win.

Clinical negligence cases are also criticized and some of the damages patients collect from doctors are thought excessive. This leads in many countries to extremely high malpractice insurance costs, which can protect the personal income of health workers if they are sued. The trouble with these high rates is that medical workers respond by charging clients more, raising the overall cost of medical care for many people.

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