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Would Failing To Properly Administer Birth Control Be Classified As Wrongful Life Or Medical Malpractice?

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An article on the Newser website details an unfortunate situation where a woman was given a flu shot rather than her normal birth control medication and became pregnant as a result. While the article states the woman has filed a wrongful life lawsuit against the health clinic that made the mistake, this type of error may be better litigated as a general medical malpractice. Here's more information about these two legal theories to help you understand why.

Medical Malpractice Defined

Medical malpractice is a general term used to describe negligent actions on the part of healthcare providers. A doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider who agrees to treat a person is legally liable for providing the most competent care available. If a medical professional fails to adhere to the minimum level of care required by his or her profession, the person can be held liable for damages and injuries that result.

To prove medical malpractice, you must show that four specific elements are true:

  • The medical professional owed a duty of care to the patient
  • The person failed to adhere to the standards of care
  • The patient suffered an injury as a result
  • The patient sustained compensable damages because of the negligence

For instance, a man died in Germany because the surgeon allegedly left 16 pieces of medical equipment in his body after performing prostrate surgery. In this situation, the surgeon's failure to no medical tools were left inside the patient would qualify as medical malpractice because the doctor failed to perform his or her duty, the patient died, and the patient's family suffered the loss of his company and financial contributions.

What is a Wrongful Life Claim?

While a wrongful life claim is classified as medical malpractice, it is a term that addresses a specific type of negligence. Particularly, this type of claim is usually brought against a medical professional by a child with birth defects who alleges that he or she would not have been born if it hadn't been for the negligent actions of the healthcare provider.

It specifically addresses a medical professional failure to detect a child had birth defects or to advise the parents of this information, thus denying the parents the choice and opportunity to halt the progression of the pregnancy. In addition to proving the requirements of medical malpractice, the plaintiff also has to prove that he or she would have been better off not being born in the first place.

Not very many states allow this type of claim because the purpose of personal injury lawsuits is to return the injured party to the same position he or she would have been in if the injury hadn't occurred, which is not possible in a wrongful life case.

Although the idea behind a wrongful life claim appears amendable to suing a healthcare provider for not properly administering birth control, especially if the child is born with birth defects, it doesn't really address the actual negligent act. Wrongful life addresses a healthcare provider's failure to notify parents of problems with the pregnancy, not a failure to properly administer medication to prevent pregnancy. Additionally, wrongful life is usually filed by the child or on the child's behalf. Failure to administer birth control properly is an injury against the parent.

If you are in a situation where you are injured because your healthcare provider failed to administer the right medicine for your needs, it's essential that you sue under the correct legal theory. Using the wrong one can cause your case to be thrown out of court or result in a verdict against you. It's best to connect with a medical malpractice lawyer, like the ones at Bennett & Zydron PC, for assistance with developing and litigating your case under the most appropriate legal theories.