It’s not uncommon for patients to be unclear about the concept of medical malpractice, which takes place when a physician does not provide acceptable treatment, fails to take a necessary action, or provides inadequate care that causes the patient injury, harm, or death.

Medical negligence usually involves a mistake in diagnosis, prescription dosage, pain management, treatment, or follow-up care. Medical malpractice law allows for patients who were victims of sub-standard treatment to recover compensation.

The following myths regarding the American health care system are among the most prevalent when medical liability is in question.

Myth #1:  Many more lawsuits exist for medical malpractice than actual occurrences of negligence.

This is incorrect – there are many more malpractice incidents in the U.S. than lawsuits filed for them. Patients who have been victims of medical negligence don’t always realize that they have legal rights to pursue recovery for damages. Not every attorney is willing to accept medical malpractice cases because they are complicated and often have insignificant or incomplete evidence.

Myth #2: In case of emergency, informed consent must occur or the patient cannot be treated.

If a patient is unable to give their consent to the treatment, a physician may skip informed consent only in an emergency. A situation is considered an emergency if a parent or legal guardian is not available or cannot provide consent; if time is diminishing too quickly; if the patient would likely consent if they could; or if someone who is “reasonable” would agree to the treatment.

Myth #3: It’s illegal to transfer a patient to another emergency department once they’re admitted.

This is partially true – in 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act was created to stop healthcare facilities from rejecting patients and sending them to other units instead of providing treatment. Nevertheless, an emergency department can transfer any patient if it’s expected that they would receive better care at the other facility due to better equipment or specialization.

Myth #4: A pediatrician is not legally permitted to treat an adult patient.

Pediatricians don’t receive licenses to specifically treat ‘pediatric medicine’; they earn licenses to practice all types of medicine. Still, pediatricians may need to consider differences in treatment for adults of treatment. If a mother brings in her child to be seen and she believes she may have the same condition, the pediatrician may agree to diagnose and write the mother a prescription as well.  

Myth #5: Medical negligence lawsuits are increasing the price of American medical care.

Medical malpractice hearings are handled in court only and are funded through the insurance company. While it’s true that $29 billion annually is added to the health care expenses, the cost is incurred because of incorrect diagnosis, improper treatment, surgical mistakes, and general mistakes. Legal expenses (to settle claims and pay attorneys and jury awards) make up $7 billion per year, which is 2.4% of the total amount spent on healthcare in the United States.