The History of Medical Malpractice in the United States

Medical malpractice is a major concern for doctors, dentists, CRNAs, and other medical professionals in the United States, but it hasn’t always been that way. Below, we’ll guide you through the history of medical malpractice in the United States and briefly touch on some landmark cases in the field.

Defining Medical Malpractice in the US

In the United States, medical malpractice is defined as the failure of a healthcare professional to provide a standard of care that a reasonably competent healthcare professional in a similar field would have provided under the same circumstances. This can include treatment errors, diagnostic errors, or errors in management that result in harm or injury to a patient.

Historical Context of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Medical malpractice lawsuits in the US can be traced back to the 1800s. During this time, malpractice cases were relatively uncommon, and damages awarded to plaintiffs were considerably less than they are today. However, with advancements in medicine and public awareness, cases began to rise in the latter half of the 19th century. This increase prompted the development of malpractice laws to safeguard patients’ rights and maintain professional standards among healthcare practitioners.

The first known medical malpractice case in the US was in 1794 when a doctor was sued for causing the arm paralysis of his patient during surgery. However, it wasn’t until the 1900s that medical malpractice cases significantly rose, largely as a result of the growth and influence of professional medical organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA).

Landmark Cases and Their Impact on Modern Lawsuits

Several landmark cases have shaped the landscape of medical malpractice lawsuits in the United States. These cases have helped establish precedents and contributed to the evolution of legal standards surrounding medical negligence.

One such landmark case is Reibl v. Hughes (1978), which established the concept of informed consent. This case clarified that healthcare professionals are legally required to provide patients with all the necessary information regarding their medical condition, available treatment options, possible risks, and potential outcomes of a procedure to enable them to make an informed decision.

Another important case in the history of medical malpractice in the United States is Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California (1976), which highlighted the principle of duty to warn. This case stated that mental health professionals must warn potential victims if a patient presents a credible threat of violence toward them.

Get Protected for Malpractice With Baxter & Associates

As a healthcare professional, you must take proactive measures to protect yourself from malpractice claims. As a provider of CRNA liability insurance and medical malpractice coverage for dentists, doctors, and other physicians, Baxter & Associates understands the important points of malpractice law and how it can affect an individual. If you need medical malpractice coverage, you can find a quote for a policy online or contact our staff to discuss your insurance options.