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Doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers spend a great deal of time learning how to treat a great variety of illnesses and physical maladies. As a group they are professionals dedicated to helping alleviate the ailments that can plague mankind. Unfortunately, healthcare providers can also make mistakes. When mistakes are made the effects can be devastating. In fact, according to the National Academy of Sciences, approximately 98,000 Americans die from "medical mistakes" each year.
Medical malpractice is a form of negligence involving a medical treatment provider. If someone is injured as a result of a treatment provider's digression from the standard of care, that treater may be liable for the injury that has occurred. The determination of whether a medical professional has met the standard of care is based on a comparison to other professionals in the same field and the same geographical region. In other words, what would a reasonably competent medical professional practicing in the same field as the defendant, and in the same area of the defendant, do under the circumstances that the defendant was facing with respect to care and treatment of the patient?
Medical malpractice does not occur every time there is a bad outcome from treatment. It is simply a duty to provide good care according to the accepted standards of the community and/or the accepted standards of a particular medical specialty. The law generally recognizes the practice of medicine as an "art" rather than as an exact science. Therefore, some latitude is given to practitioners with respect to the manner in which they choose to address the problems of specific patients.