UNITED STATES—Medical malpractice is a common issue many doctors face over the course of their career. This is a very serious charge. Doctors who are found guilty of violating the ethics of their profession may face all sorts of detrimental penalties. If you are a doctor or a patient involved in this issue, it is crucial to understand the consequences of a conviction for medical malpractice.
A finding of guilt can lead to:
- Increased Malpractice Premiums
- Loss of Medical License
- Possible Criminal Penalties
A Serious Charge
Medical malpractice is a serious issue. All doctors and medical personnel in a related field, such as nursing, are required to meet a certain standard of care when on the job. This standard of care is what any patient should expect to receive while under doctor supervision. Doctors must operate to the best of their ability when treating patients. This means avoiding substances that might compromise their ability to function such as alcohol or illicit substances.
When a doctor or other medical professional does not adhere to the required standards of care, that medical professional can be held liable under state law. In general, failure to provide care falls under civil rather than criminal penalties. However, if the error is deliberate or made with the intention of profit, the person in question can face criminal charges.
One of the most common outcomes of a medical malpractice conviction is financial. Doctors are required to have medical malpractice insurance in order to practice in all states. The malpractice insurance will pay at least some of the costs of common medical errors and damages. However, an insurance company may not pay all the costs, especially in a larger than average case. The doctor may be called on to make up at least some of the difference.
Doctors who are found guilty of medical malpractice can also face increased medical malpractice premiums. These premiums are not likely to go up for a single charge a single time. If the doctor is convicted of a more serious violation or a series of violations, that doctor can ultimately face much higher premiums. That can make it much harder for them to continue to practice medicine in their state.
All doctors must be licensed in order to practice medicine. Licensing is determined by each state. State licensing requirements can be very complex. They often vary greatly by jurisdiction. Doctors must agree to adhere to certain norms when applying for a license. Doctors who are found in violation of the medical code of ethics can face issues with their ability to retain their license.
A single medical malpractice judgement is unlikely to lead to medical licensing issues. However, if found guilty of repeated violations, the doctor may face the suspension of their license for a period of time. If the doctor was found to have violated medical procedures by using illicit substances, they may be asked to avoid practicing until they’ve gone through rehab. Repeated instances can result in the permanent loss of a medical license.
Criminal penalties for malpractice are rare. Doctors who have engaged in practices such as deliberately and knowingly causing harm can face permanent disbarment from the field. For example, a doctor who engaged in deliberate discrimination against someone on the basis of a protected class such as sex, may be found liable of criminal behavior. A doctor who knowingly caused harm to the patient may be liable for all sorts of consequences including jail time.
Because the laws and penalties of medical malpractice vary by state, it may be difficult to know what to do if you are a doctor or patient involved in a case of medical malpractice. You may require an attorney’s assistance to help you determine the best course of action for your particular case.