Under Massachusetts law, a physician or other health care provider is expected to possess and exercise that reasonable degree of skill, care, and learning ordinarily exercised by an average qualified physician or other health care provider in similar circumstances. In some situations, a specialist may be held to an even higher standard. Medical negligence (commonly referred to as "medical malpractice") is the failure of a responsible health care provider, either by action or omission, to exercise that degree of skill, care, and learning expected of them under a particular set of circumstances. It does not matter if the provider's intentions were good. A Plaintiff may recover on his medical malpractice claim if he proves—by a preponderance of the evidence—the following three things:
(1) that the doctor, nurse, hospital or other health care provider undertook the care and treatment of the patient, and therefore had a duty to use reasonable care to avoid causing injury to him;
(2) that the health care provider was negligent in fulfilling that duty; and
(3) that the negligence of the health care provider was the "legal cause" of the injury suffered by the patient, including the worsening of his condition and/or death. (An act or omission is the "legal cause" of an injury if it directly and substantially contributed to producing the injury.)
Ordinarily, unless a health care provider's conduct is readily recognizable by a lay person as causing the patient's injury (which is a very rare situation), the Plaintiff must rely on the testimony of one or more expert witnesses to establish that the health care provider's want of skill or care was the legal cause of the patient's injury. Courts allow medical experts to testify to their opinions because of their training, education, and knowledge of the medical field. (Submitted by Steven Bloom, Esq. of Cushner & Bloom in Brookline).
For more information or to post a question, visit our Medical Malpractice Discussion Forum.