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Does negligence equal malpractice?

The terms medical malpractice and medical negligence both describe instances in which a health care provider does not meet the expected professional standard of care. However, while negligence may result in a lack of quality care, malpractice occurs when negligence leads directly to a documented injury.

Review the factors that differentiate medical negligence from medical malpractice.

Understanding medical negligence

Negligence means that someone has a duty of care to another person and breaches that duty either by action or inaction. Some examples of medical negligence by a doctor include rescheduling a patient’s appointment at the last minute, failing to prescribe medication appropriately or ignoring a patient’s complaints about symptoms. While these instances could potentially cause an injury, the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must prove that the negligent action or lack of action resulted in the adverse effects.

Defining medical malpractice

Malpractice extends beyond negligence to include events that definitively cause the patient mental or physical injury. Examples include operating on the wrong surgical site, performing an incorrect or unnecessary surgery, or failing to administer necessary medication.

In New York, victims of medical malpractice can file a lawsuit to recover costs such as medical expenses, loss of income and loss of life enjoyment. The court can award punitive damage when a health care provider acts recklessly.

An injured person has 30 months after the negligent action to submit a medical malpractice claim. However, the state may extend this time period in cases involving ongoing treatment by a negligent doctor resulting in injury, foreign object left in the body or malpractice injury to a minor.