When Medical Malpractice Cases Turn Criminal

What is the difference between negligence and criminal negligence? Negligence is a broader term. It means that a person or organization was guilty of failing to follow common procedures. For example, let’s say you go into a hospital. You slip on bloody rags in the entryway and break your neck. That’s negligence. Now let’s say those rags were tossed there with no regard to the danger they pose. To make matters worse, the doctors botch your treatment. You’ll be in a wheelchair the rest of your life. That’s a criminal act, because it was reckless, negligent, and could have easily been prevented.

Any criminal defense law firm is accustomed to a wide array of cases. Criminal defense attorney John Tackabaum explained, “Healthcare practitioners make mistakes that sometimes result in a person’s life being altered beyond repair. That’s a fact. Less often, those mistakes result in criminal liability. That liability usually falls on a single person. Even more rarely, such liability will fall on several people. That’s conspiracy.”

Keep in mind that criminal medical negligence is an extreme allegation, and strong evidence will be needed for a healthcare provider to be convicted in criminal court. If a healthcare provider actively attempted to hurt someone, that makes the case easier to prove — and it would certainly land on a prosecutor’s docket. 

When these rare events occur, a civil complaint can turn into a criminal investigation. Alternatively, a criminal complaint can almost always be argued in civil court as well. Private citizens suing for personal injury on a medical malpractice complaint should know that cases based on criminal proceedings are easier to win when the defendant is found guilty in criminal court. That’s because the burden of proof is even lower in civil court.

Actual criminal medical negligence is rare even though doctors and other medical professionals are accused routinely. Not every healthcare worker is Dr. Death. Courts are also hesitant to pursue criminal medical negligence charges without extremely strong evidence for obvious reasons. If healthcare workers fear losing their jobs, livelihood, or going to jail due to every complaint, then we wouldn’t have any healthcare workers! 

PubMedCentral described, “In such a case, a medical professional may leave a terminally ill patient to his own fate in an emergency where the chance of success may be 10% rather than taking the risk of making a last ditch effort towards saving the subject and facing criminal prosecution if the effort fails. Such timidity forced upon a doctor would be a disservice to society.”

These arguments go both ways. A victim has the right to sue. But no one should be under the constant worry of a frivolous lawsuit.

Whether or not you have an appropriate medical malpractice case is dependent on the facts. What happened? Why did it happen? How did it happen? Who made it happen? Most importantly, would the usual standard of care have prevented it from happening? These are questions a medical malpractice attorney can help answer. Always call to request a free consultation before retaining any services. Good luck!

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