Identifying Medical Malpractice Under Pennsylvania Law

The following article is part of our series on medical malpractice law in Pennsylvania. This article has been adapted from our free eBook titled What You Need To Know To Protect Yourself And Your Rights. (Click here to download the full e-book.)

What IS Considered Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania?

Medical malpractice is when a hospital, doctor, nurse or other healthcare organization or provider provides substandard medical care that causes injury or death to a patient. In short, it is when a doctor, nurse or hospital doesn’t do their job and, as a result, someone gets hurt or dies.

Healthcare Provider Malpractice

The law in Pennsylvania requires healthcare providers like doctors and nurses to have the same knowledge and skill and use the same care when treating a patient. This is called the standard of care.

This is the standard that medical professionals in Pennsylvania must meet in order to provide safe care to patients. When a doctor or nurse’s knowledge, skill or care of a patient falls below the required patient care standard and as a result the patient is harmed – that is medical malpractice.

Hospital Malpractice

Healthcare institutions like hospitals can be held liable for medical malpractice. A healthcare institution is directly liable to the patient if it violates one of the duties it owes to the patient to ensure the patient’s safety. The law in Pennsylvania requires hospitals and other medical institutions to uphold 4 patient safety duties.

  • Duty #1 - Maintain safe and adequate facilities and equipment.
  • Duty #2 – Hire and staff only competent healthcare personnel.
  • Duty #3 – Oversee all healthcare personnel within its walls for patient safety.
  • Duty #4 – Have in place and enforce rules and policies that ensure quality care for patients.

If a hospital violates any of these rules and, as a result, a patient is harmed or dies, then the hospital is directly liable to the patient for medical malpractice.

What IS NOT Considered Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania?

As important as it is to know what medical malpractice is, it is also important to know what medical malpractice is not. The fact is, that most healthcare, even a poor outcome, is NOT medical malpractice. Also, in our experience, most doctors and nurses have the best intentions for their patients. But because the stakes are so high in medicine, it is common for patients or their families to wonder if a poor outcome was preventable. The following is a list of common occurrences that people think might be medical malpractice but is not.

  • A bad or unusual outcome of medical care or a surgery.
  • A healthcare provider says they are sorry for the outcome.
  • A healthcare provider treats a patient with disrespect or with a lack of bedside manner.
  • The patient is unhappy with the results or outcome.
  • When a healthcare provider is unable to cure or fix the patient.
  • A subsequent treating doctor or nurse voices dissatisfaction with the prior medical provider.
  • Medical care was recommended or provided which the patient or patient’s family, in hindsight, disagreed with.
  • A legitimate mistake was made but it did not actually cause any harm.
  • There are errors in or information is missing from the medical records.

Additionally, because of how difficult medical malpractice claims are to win for the patient combined with how expensive they are, many claims that technically could be considered medical malpractice cannot be handled because the care at issue is defensible and/or the injuries are not significant enough to warrant the risk and costs.

If you have think that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, contact us for a free case evaluation.

All articles in this blog are the collaborative effort of attorneys Jerry Meyers, Brendan Lupetin, and Gregory Unatin.

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