What’s ‘Patient Harm’ and Who Sues for It?

Patient harm is exactly what it sounds like: an injury to a person in a medical context. Hospitals and health care providers are legally obligated to report these incidents to state regulatory agencies, but there have been some very serious cases of patient harm that administrators did not report or did but made the harm seem more mild.

So, not only were patients hurt in the hospital but health care administrators broke the rules of reporting. In some cases of severe patient harm, hospitals reported that an incident occurred but omitted critical details that reveal the extent of the harm. Let’s take a look at a sample case and your options as a patient who has been harmed.

Case in Point

One particularly egregious case arose in New York in 2000. A patient woke up from surgery to find her doctor’s initials carved on her body. The hospital reported the incident to the state health department but left out that critical detail about the carved initials, characterizing the incident in such a way as to make it seem less insane, as that was truly unusual behavior for a surgeon.

The woman whose stomach Dr. Allan Zarkin carved his initials onto was also a doctor, so she had no doubts that what happened was wrong. Dr. Gedz — the patient in this case — sued the hospital, the doctor who had since been fired, and his private practice for $5.5 million in a civil lawsuit, charging that ”severe, permanent and devastating personal injuries” were ”caused by the carelessness, negligence and medical malpractice of the defendants.”

Were You Harmed?

When a patient is harmed by a health care provider, a medical malpractice suit is an option. Medical malpractice is simply a negligence claim arising in the medical context.

To prove medical malpractice you must show that you were injured by your healthcare provider and that your injury arose from a breach in the provider’s duty of care. Breach is proven by showing that your provider fell below the duty of care of a reasonable doctor in same or similar circumstances (for example, no reasonable surgeon completes a procedure by carving initials into a patient so in the above case, breach must have been easy to prove).

If you can show that the breach caused the injury and that the injury is compensable, you can recover for medical malpractice. But to do all that, you will need a lawyer.

Consult With Counsel

Medical malpractice cases are unusually complex and you will need help. This is not the kind of case to try to handle on your own. But do not worry. Many personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to talk to you about your case.

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