What makes for a malpractice suit?

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What makes for a malpractice suit?

My father is only 60 and had his aortic heart valve replaced 2 years ago. He spent over a year recovering from the surgery (6 months in the hospital) and had everything that could go wrong, go wrong. No lawyer would help us because there was no clear case. However, here we are 2 years later. The bovine valve he had installed was leaking a little after surgery. Now his cardiologist says the valve is leaking more and more. So the valve we went through heck to get now turns out to be defective. Do you think we now have a case?

Asked on May 30, 2012 under Malpractice Law, Mississippi

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Malpractice literally means "bad practice"--it is the provision of medical care which does not meet then-currently accepted standards for such care. It is basically medical negligence, or unreasonable carelessness--when the doctor does not do what is expected of a doctor.

Often, there is a bad outcome for a patient but no malpractice; medicine is an art, not an exact science, and it is not uncommon for the doctor to do everything right, but the patient to still suffer some adverse consequence. If the doctor did provide the standard or level of care he was expected to, he will not be liable--the doctor must have done something wrong, not merely had an undesirable outcome, for there to be malpractice.

In the situation you desribe, the fact that the valve is leaking does not by itself prove malpractice--there must be some reason to believe the leak is due to the surgeon, or some other medical care provider, doing something wrong or not being as careful as (s)he should have been. If a cardiologist believes that the leak is likely due to a failure to provide good care, then you might have a case; but if there is no evidence of a failure of care or otherwise inadequate medical treatment, you most likely do not.


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