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When medical errors become criminal cases

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

Medical errors are actions that doctors, nurses and other medical specialists commit every day. An error is mostly seen as accidental and not intended to cause harm to a patient. In Kentucky and other states, more medical cases that involve medical errors are being treated as criminal offenses.

Types of medical errors

A medical error is any mistake that a medical professional makes when treating a patient. These errors include administering the wrong medication, administering an inadequate amount of anesthesia, making the wrong diagnosis and other problems.

The changing definitions of crimes

Not all forms of medical malpractice count as crimes. The type of error, the extent of damage and various contributing factors are considered when classifying a crime to be as serious as murder, assault or battery. Determining a crime depends mainly on reviewing the amount of intentional negligence that is committed by the doctor, nurse, office clerk or another medical provider.

A medical error was defined as a crime in the case of Nurse Vaught in Tennessee. In 2017, Vaught was convicted of a crime after causing a medication error that resulted in a patient’s death. The judge and jury reviewed the circumstances of her actions and the outcome on the victim when deciding the verdict.

Most medical errors are considered negligent when the medical provider takes unnecessary risks to treat a patient. Usually, an error is corrected by making a disciplinary action against the worker, such as a suspension or verbal warning. If the error causes a severe injury or death, the medical provider can become part of a civil lawsuit or criminal case that results in a conviction.