Medical Malpractice vs. Medical Battery Cases – Distinguishing Factors

by | Published on Dec 7, 2016 | News

Medical battery cases are different from medical malpractice cases; however, attorneys may utilize medical review services in both instances to understand significant medical facts and determine if the case has merit. Both types of cases involve medical record retrieval as an important first step. Medical battery is the deliberate violation of a patient’s right to direct their own medical treatments. When providing non-emergency treatment, doctors have to obtain the patient’s informed consent. The patient may have a claim for medical battery if the physician goes ahead with the medical treatment without the patient’s consent or against his/her will, even if the physician did not intend to cause any harm. A medical malpractice claim involves the negligence of a doctor, nurse, surgeon or other healthcare professional. In a medical malpractice case, the claimant has to prove that the healthcare professional’s incompetence directly caused the injury.

Major Considerations in Medical Malpractice and Medical Battery Cases

  • To prove medical malpractice, there should be evidence showing that the claimant suffered medical injuries on account of the medical professional’s breach of their professional duty of care. A medical expert may be required to testify that the healthcare provider’s negligence caused the injury.
  • In a medical battery claim, it is generally not required to prove negligence or injury. But it is necessary to prove that the medical provider engaged in unauthorized contact, touching or handling of the injured person.
  • The main consideration in a medical malpractice case is how the medical provider was negligent in administering treatment or provided the wrong treatment. In most medical battery claims, the main point of dispute is whether the patient agreed to undergo the treatment or whether he/she refused it. The patient may either directly refuse treatment through advanced directives or they may do so via a healthcare proxy.
  • The main issue in most medical battery cases is whether the patient accepted the treatment via informed consent. The patient must be well aware of all the potential outcomes of the treatment and must willingly consent to the procedure.

Defense Tactics in Medical Malpractice and Medical Battery Cases

Some common defenses used in medical malpractice claims are as follows:

  • Statute of Limitations: In some US states, there are time limits on when a medical malpractice claim can be brought. If the defense can prove that the claimant discovered the injury after the statute of limitations has expired, the case can be dismissed. In such instances, no claim can be brought against the healthcare provider.
  • Absence of causation: In this case, the argument will be that the claimant was not indeed injured by the doctor’s negligence and the doctor was not the actual and proximate cause of the claimant’s injury.
  • Contributory negligence: The healthcare provider may argue that they are not the sole entities responsible for the patient’s injury and that the patient also contributed to his/her injury through some negligent act he/she engaged in.

In a medical battery case, the defense tactics may be:

  • Attempt to prove that the patient actually consented to the treatment, which has to be substantiated via medical documents or witness testimony establishing that the patient agreed to the treatment.
  • “Incapacity” is another usual defense strategy. If the defense can establish that the patient lacked the mental capacity to provide their own informed decisions, then their decision to refuse treatment could be questioned. The provider may have had to proceed with the treatment in a scenario wherein the patient was intoxicated or unconscious before the treatment. Examples include the requirement for a surgery to save the patient’s life. It is important though, to remember that even in an emergency situation, healthcare providers have to follow strict standards of care regarding the patient’s wishes.

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