Millions of people receive medical treatment each year and, in most cases, the care provided is of a very high standard. Unfortunately, there are some instances where things go wrong, and mistakes are made. When it comes to patient care, the stakes are high; a failure on the part of a healthcare professional to maintain a high standard of care can have serious consequences.
Medical negligence often referred to as medical malpractice, is deemed to have occurred when a patient suffers harm as a result of a healthcare practitioner’s failure to meet the accepted standard of care. Medical professionals have a duty of care to make certain that patients receive high-quality treatment that does not cause injury or worsen a condition. It is a breach of duty when a practitioner fails to meet the standard of a reasonable body of other skilled practitioners.
In some especially tragic cases, either the harm resulting from medical negligence or the negligence itself is so severe that it is considered gross negligence. This is where medical negligence can become criminal. Gross negligence typically applies to cases where a serious breach of duty by a medical practitioner results in grave injury or death. In these situations, the law seeks to appropriately punish conduct that is so negligent that it warrants a criminal conviction.
With respect to what constitutes gross negligence or criminal medical malpractice, the 1994 case of R v Adomako informed the decision by the House of Lords to define the criteria to determine Gross Medical Manslaughter. The four components are:
1.) The defendant owed the victim a duty of care
2.) The defendant breached that duty
3.) The breach caused (or significantly contributed to) the victim’s death
4.) The breach was grossly negligent.
If these things can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a jury must decide whether the conduct of the healthcare practitioner deviated from the accepted standard of care and whether it was so grossly negligent as to be considered a crime.