What is and what is not medical malpractice? Medical malpractice in Oregon and all other jurisdictions consists of a medical provider failing to provide the required minimum standard of care when treating the patient. The failure to provide due care must be a substantial factor in causing the damages claimed in the lawsuit. In essence, medical malpractice is based on a finding that there was actionable negligence by the medical provider.

Medical malpractice is not proved when a doctor is careless but that carelessness did not cause the injuries that are claimed in the lawsuit. If some other action or inaction caused the plaintiff's injuries, there is no legal causation and no recovery. Furthermore, the mere failure of the doctor to deliver the specific outcome that was expected is not enough for malpractice.

If a doctor is rude and uncommunicative, that does not mean that the patient's bad outcome was caused by the doctor. When a patient's outcome is far worse than the doctor indicated, that is not in itself an indication of medical negligence. Thus, the fact that a doctor, for example, made a mistake in treating a patient is only a beginning inquiry into whether there is actionable malpractice that can be claimed in a court case.

On the other hand, some mistakes that result in direct injury to the patient are fairly easy cases to prove. This includes classic scenarios, such as where the surgical team leaves an operative instrument inside the patient's body and sews him or her up. There have also been many recorded cases of doctors and surgical crews operating on the wrong body part, such as removing the healthy right leg and leaving the gangrenous left leg intact.

Those are clear-cut cases of medical malpractice, and they are relatively easy to prove, whether in Oregon or elsewhere. Insurance companies will likely be far more forthcoming in making offers to settle cases like that. Beyond the easier cases, however, there is a wide and vast field of cases that cannot easily be pinned down, and which will take testimony from the recognized experts in the field of medicine that is being litigated.

Source: richmond.com, "What is and is not medical malpractice?", Colleen Quinn and Richard Locke, Jan. 1, 2015