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Is an unsuccessful procedure evidence of medical malpractice?

A common perception concerning whether a health care professional has committed medical malpractice is whether that individual made a mistake that led to a patient suffering harm. In practice, however, the determining if medical malpractice has occurred requires a detailed comprehension of the proof requirements under Louisiana law.

Reading the applicable law is the beginning of understanding the legal requirements to hold a medical professional accountable for malpractice, but that reading must be done in light of court cases that have interpreted the law. Only in this way can a plaintiff's attorney be sure that he or she is interpreting the statutory language in a way that will maximize the likelihood of providing the best legal advice to the client.

Take for example a case that addressed the question of whether a medical procedure that resulted in complications later on constitutes medical malpractice. The plaintiff underwent an emergency gallbladder removal, but afterward suffered from physical after-effects that required additional surgery. The plaintiff sued, but ultimately lost the case both at trial and on appeal. The reasoning of the court of appeals is enlightening, because the court provides guidance on how to interpret the medical malpractice law that a superficial reading may not readily reveal.

  • For example, is the fact that a medical procedure is unsuccessful evidence of medical malpractice? One may be tempted to answer "Yes," but the actual answer is "No." If a patient experiences the effects of a known risk of a medical procedure such as a surgery, then such an occurrence does not necessarily imply that the doctor was negligent.
  • Is a doctor required to exercise the highest degree of care possible in treating a patient? The temptation is again to say "Yes," but the actual answer is once more, "No." The doctor only needs to act with reasonable care and diligence, and to meet the same level of skill that others in the same profession do.

The point of this post is not to discourage you from believing that you have a cause of action if you have suffered harm from a medical procedure, but rather to show you that it is incumbent on any personal injury attorney that you consult with to understand not only the language statutes but also how courts understand them. Only when both are applied can the attorney provide you with the best possible advice to evaluate your claim.

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