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Regulating the medical profession: malpractice litigation and physician discipline, P.1

The medical profession is a highly regulated one, and for good reasons. Licensed physicians bear a major responsibility to their patients, and regulation and oversight helps ensure—or, at least, is supposed to—that the individuals in the profession are deemed to be generally competent and trustworthy.

Two important ways medical professionals are regulated is through licensing and tort litigation. Medical malpractice litigation, of course, is a cause of action in which a patient claims that a licensed physician breached an established duty of care and thereby caused harm to the patient. In order to successfully pursue a medical malpractice claim, a patient must be able to present relevant and reliable evidence defining the specific standard of care, the breach of that standard of care, and which demonstrates a sufficient causal link between that breach and the harm done to the patient.

Needless to say, it isn’t always easy to present a strong medical malpractice case. It depends on the facts of the case, as well as the clarity of the standard of care in question. Typically, expert witnesses are used in medical malpractice to help establish the appropriate standard of care, as well as whether the defendant physician breached the standard of care. A lot of time and effort, and money, is typically spent in building a strong case.

Another aspect of medical malpractice litigation is damages. Simply because a patient may have a meritorious medical malpractice claim doesn’t mean he or she should therefore pursue medical malpractice litigation. A cost-benefit analysis needs to be done to determine whether a case is worth pursuing, and there are multiple factors that need to be considered before filing a lawsuit. That is why it is so important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to have one’s situation evaluated to determine the best way of resolving the matter.

In our next post, we’ll continue this discussion and look at another important form of regulation of the medical profession: physician discipline.

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