What Is Medical Negligence? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you're going to learn the basic but important points regarding medical malpractice and its relation to medical negligence. You'll also see some examples of medical malpractice and negligence.

Negligence & Malpractice

We've all been careless at one time or another. But what if you were so careless that you caused a person harm? This is something that professionals in the medical industry have to be very mindful of. The public puts their trust in doctors and nurses to not to make mistakes that could lead to harm.

If an accident happens, depending on the exact circumstances, how the person was involved, and even their profession, they could be potentially liable for negligence or malpractice. Let's figure out how these terms are related and look at some examples.

What is Negligence?

A careless act can lead to a lawsuit for negligence. Negligence is a term that includes carelessness, conduct lacking in due care, or a deviation from normal standards of care that any reasonable person would use in the same set of circumstances.

So, in normal person speak, we're saying that the negligent person either took inappropriate action that a reasonable person would've avoided, or failed to exercise appropriate care towards another person that a prudent person would've exercised. In either case, unintentional harm to the victim resulted.

In order to prove that someone is negligent, we need to show several things, including:

  • The negligent person had a duty to the injured individual or the general public
  • The negligent person's actions or lack of action was not something a prudent person would've done
  • The damages to the victim were directly caused by the negligence itself and not something else
  • Actual harm (injury) occurred

Anyone can be held liable for negligence. Examples of negligence include things like car accidents, slips and falls at work, or a parent leaving a young child alone for long periods of time.

What is Malpractice?

However, when we're talking about professionals, like medical personnel, the term negligence is better known as malpractice. In order for someone to be held liable for malpractice, the person has to be a professional, like a doctor. Malpractice is the failure of a professional to act within their profession's standards or a failure to foresee consequences that another professional of the same kind is expected to foresee.

Let's take a look at some examples of medical malpractice.


Jack is a 60 year old man with hyperthyroidism who is wheeled into the emergency room. Doctors are unable to diagnose the fact that he has a heart attack because he does not present the textbook signs. Jack ends up dying. Misdiagnoses are a common cause of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Negligence during childbirth is another example of medical malpractice. Lucy just gave birth via cesarean section. She later developed a serious infection because the doctor did not notice a loop of her bowel had been perforated (sliced or cut through) during the procedure.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account