What Makes A Doctor's Actions Medical Malpractice?

The people who visit a medical malpractice law firm regularly ask a simple question: what makes a doctor's conduct malpractice? It's helpful to break the legal concept down into its piece so you can understand the answer.

Professional Standard of Care

As far as the law sees it, medical malpractice always stands in contrast to good practice. Every branch of medical practice has a professional standard of care. An extreme example would be that a competent general practitioner wouldn't amputate your finger just because you had a cut. There would have to be a compelling reason, such as an unstoppable spreading infection, to justify such a radical decision and procedure.

Opinions of Other Professionals

A medical malpractice lawyer will spend a lot of time talking cases over with experts. If you were the victim of a botched spinal surgery, for example, the attorney would discuss your situation with experts and doctors familiar with the specific procedure you underwent. Unsurprisingly, the insurance company processing the claim would also consult with experts to hear their professional opinions, too.

More than Poor Performance or Bad Outcomes

Notably, medical malpractice isn't about the inherent awfulness of the outcome or even the doctor's performance. One core question is whether the doctor's decision would appall other professionals in their field. For example, some prescriptions may be outdated without being malpractice. Another doctor with more updated training might not have elected to go the same route, but they might understand why a different doctor with different experience chose to prescribe a particular drug.

Another core question is the general competency of whatever the doctor did. In the example involving spinal surgery, an expert would look at how the surgery was planned, where incisions were made, and how the doctor tried to operate on the spine. If the procedure were especially long, there might be competency questions if the surgeon didn't schedule another doctor to continue the work after they became exhausted.


The work of a medical malpractice law firm falls squarely in the domain of injury law. As with any type of injury case, medical malpractice claims require meaningful harm. In theory, a doctor could conduct a procedure drunk and not commit legally recognizable malpractice as long as there was no harm.

Notably, this also means there isn't an inherent promise everything will go well. The law understands that no procedure is a guaranteed cure. When harm occurs, it must be outside the known risks that the patient consented to. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer for more information.