|August 2008 · Vol. 20, No. 08
FOCUS ON PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY
Stuff of nightmares: Criminal prosecution for malpractice
Knowing how the law distinguishes criminal acts committed in practice from civil malpractice should ease your fears about the rare (but terrifying) prosecution
Physicians are in the unique position of having the threat of criminal prosecution hang over their heads for severe or lethal damage to one of their “clients”
To the four core elements of civil malpractice (duty, breach, damages, and causation), add a fifth—your state of mind—in criminal malpractice
Repetitive negligent behavior, constituting a pattern that can be documented, is an invitation to any prosecutor who is considering criminal charges
Dangerous physicians may elude discipline by moving to a different jurisdiction; that’s one reason civil malpractice suits aren’t always a deterrent to bad behavior
It’s reasonable to think that prosecutors will grow more active in filing criminal charges as the public becomes more frustrated with inadequate self-policing
Dr. Steinman is Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Albert Einstein School of Medicine, Bronx, NY, and Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, International American University College of Medicine, St. Lucia. He is a member of the ObGyn attending staff at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, NY, and at St. John’s Queens Hospital, Elmhurst, NY. Dr. Steinman is the coauthor of Womb Mates: A Modern Guide to Fertility and Twinning (2007).
The author reports no financial relationships relevant to this article.
This overview is not intended as advice on any legal matter. Consult a medicolegal expert for advice.