What Is Medical Malpractice? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Lynee Carter
When being taken care of by health care professionals, it is important that patients feel safe. However, there can be times when a health care provider fails to follow certain standards in the profession. This leads to a term you will learn about called medical malpractice.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when health care professionals neglect to provide appropriate care to patients, resulting in injuries and deaths. The care falls below the level of practice that should be followed in healthcare.

Federal laws, state laws and professional organizations define this level as the standards of care. They include behaviors health care professionals follow to ensure patients receive the best care that is free of harm. How a health care professional treats a patient should be similar to what the majority of other health care professionals do. When this does not happen, they can be accused of medical malpractice, and in some cases the patient may choose to sue.

Examples of Medical Malpractices

In order to be guilty of medical malpractice, the health care professional must have performed an error or failed to do an action that resulted in patient harm. There are many areas in practice that it can involve. Read on to learn about some below.

Medical Malpractices Involving Medications

  • Before a medication is prescribed for a patient, the doctor does not review the patient's allergies, which causes an allergic reaction.
  • The nurse administers the wrong dose of medication, causing the patient's blood pressure to drop severely.
  • A patient has an adverse reaction to the medication because the pharmacist dispensed the wrong one.

medication error

Medical Malpractices Involving Treatments

  • The surgeon amputates the wrong leg, forcing the patient to undergo another surgery to remove the correct leg.
  • The nurse did not follow sterile technique when inserting a catheter, leading to the patient developing a urinary tract infection.
  • A patient received further injury to a sprained ankle because the physician assistant forgot to instruct her not to walk on it.


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