The topic of medical malpractice is much publicized, but it is not well understood by most people.
What seemed impossible just ten years ago is now routine medical procedure. This helps us all to live healthier and longer lives. However, these astonishing medical advances have created increasing public expectations of the medical profession.
Many people wrongly believe that medical malpractice occurs whenever a doctor makes a mistake while treating a patient and that patient suffers injury or harm. However, a doctor is responsible only when his or her conduct falls below the standard of care expected of a reasonably competent doctor. This standard of care is continually changing as medical advances are made. Also, a higher standard is expected of a specialist than is expected of a general practitioner.
Well over 90 percent of lawsuits result in an out-of-court settlement, with an actual trial never even taking place. However, this is not the case with malpractice claims. Canadian doctors usually belong to an organization called the Canadian Medical Protective Association. This organization is composed of doctors who administer all malpractice claims brought against their members. Although some malpractice cases do settle out of court, most are contested to the very end.
Generally, medical malpractice is proven by the testimony of another qualified and impartial doctor. Many people believe that a conspiracy of silence exists and that it is impossible to get a doctor to blow the whistle, on another doctor. The vast majority of doctors are highly qualified and conscientious individuals dedicated to maintaining and preserving the highest possible standards for their profession. Most doctors are prepared to testify in court if necessary to prevent sub-standard medical care.
There are very short time limits within which lawsuits against medical professionals must be started. For example, lawsuits against public hospital and nurses must be commenced within two years after the patient is discharged from or ceases to receive treatment from the hospital. A malpractice claim against a doctor must be brought within one year from when the person knew or ought reasonably to have known the facts which give rise to his allegation of malpractice.