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Common defenses to medical malpractice

| Oct 13, 2020 | Professional Malpractice |

Medical care providers in Alaska are required to treat patients in accordance with the standards of care widely accepted in the medical community. In other words, when a physician is accused of medical malpractice by a patient, the patient (also referred to as the plaintiff) will have to show that a reasonably competent doctor with a similar background would have acted differently under the same circumstances. The plaintiff will also have to show that their physician’s negligence caused them to suffer harm or injury.

Defending against medical malpractice claims

As the defendant, your attorney will be responsible for poking holes in the plaintiff’s arguments for medical malpractice. There are several common defenses that are used to protect medical professional professionals facing malpractice claims, including:

  • No patient-doctor relationship – In order for there to be a valid claim for medical malpractice, the plaintiff must establish that there was a patient-doctor relationship, where the plaintiff knowingly sought medical advice from the doctor and the doctor agreed to accept the plaintiff as a patient. Without this relationship, the doctor did not owe any duty to the patient and therefore cannot be negligent.
  • No standard of care violation – The doctor may also establish through testimony from other medical professionals that there was no breach in the duty owed to the patient and that the doctor acted as any other reasonable physician would in the same circumstances.
  • Respectable minority principle – In cases involving a newer procedure or treatment that is not considered ‘standard’, the doctor may be able to defend his or her actions if a respectable minority of medical professionals support the innovative treatment.
  • Contributory patient negligence – By failing to follow doctor’s orders or delaying treatment, a patient may have contributed to their own injuries. If a doctor can show that the patient’s harm would not have occurred had it not been for their own negligence, they may not be liable for the patient’s injuries.

While these are some of the most commonly used medical malpractices defenses, your attorney may come up with additional defenses depending on the specific facts of your case.