Medical law is the branch of law which concerns the prerogatives and responsibilities of medical professionals and the rights of the patient.The main branches of medical law are the law on confidentiality, negligence and torts in relation to medical treatment (most notably medical malpractice), and criminal law in the field of medical practice and treatment.
Medical malpractice' is professional negligence by act or omission by a health care provider in which the treatment provided falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient, with most cases involving medical error. Standards and regulations for medical malpractice vary by jurisdiction. Medical professionals may obtain professional liability insurances to offset the risk and costs of lawsuits based on medical malpractice.
The plaintiff's damages may include compensatory and/or punitive damages. Compensatory damages are both economic and non-economic. Economic damages include financial losses such as lost wages (sometimes called lost earning capacity), medical expenses and life care expenses. These damages may be assessed for past and future losses. Non-economic damages are assessed for the injury itself: physical and psychological harm, such as loss of hearing or vision, loss of a limb or organ, the reduced enjoyment of life due to a disability or loss of a loved one, severe pain and emotional distress. Punitive damages are only awarded in the event of reckless conduct. In one particular circumstance physicians, particularly psychiatrists, are held to a different standard than other defendants in a tort claim. Suicide is legally viewed as an act which terminates a chain of causality. Although the defendant may be held negligent for another's suicide, he or she is not responsible for damages which occur after the act. An exception is made for physicians. Although there exists no protocol or algorithm for predicting suicidality with any level of certainty, courts throughout the United States have found physicians to be negligent. Furthermore, damages are routinely assessed based on losses which would hypothetically accrue after the act of suicide.
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