Undergoing medical treatment can fill someone with stress, anxiety, and fear, even if you are used to procedures or are confident of the outcome. In some cases, however, things can go wrong. On some occasions, these issues may be due to a genuine accident or a situation totally out of the control of your doctor or surgeon. However, in other cases, negligence or misconduct on the part of the medical professional or institution means that something goes wrong. In the worst-case scenarios, this can result in the death of the patient.

There is, however, a difference between medical malpractice and wrongful death. There is no denying that the two are intrinsically linked; in some situations, medical malpractice may result in a patient’s death, and so a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. However, this does not mean that all wrongful death lawsuits that appear before a judge are the result of medical malpractice; there can be many reasons for the unlawful death of an individual.

What is Medical Malpractice?

In the simplest terms, medical malpractice occurs in situations where a healthcare provider acts negligently, and a patient is harmed as a result. The category of healthcare providers is a broad one and may include pharmacists and midwives as well as hospital staff, doctors, surgeons, and members of the nursing team.

Medical malpractice can occur at any point in the visit, be that during diagnosis, treatment, or during follow up appointments. There are many examples available, including errors during surgical procedures, problems with medication – including the prescribing of incorrect medication – or delayed access to treatment. A misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a condition could also count as medical malpractice, as could birthing injury suffered by mothers and laboring women.

Medical malpractice cases do not always result in death. In these situations, the lawsuit filed can focus on the negligence of the medical provider, as well as the impact on the life and injury of the patient.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is said to have occurred when the death of an individual is directly due to the negligence, wrongful act, carelessness, or lack of action of a third party. This action, or lack of action, must directly result in the victim’s death to qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful death does not have to be due to medical malpractice, though this is a common cause. Death from a range of other accidents and incidents may also qualify, including nursing home abuse or negligence, a faulty or recalled product, a dangerous motor vehicle or car accident caused by a negligent driver, or defective medical devices. Death, which was caused by an assault, may also fall under this category, even if the death was unintentional.

So What is the Difference?

Though the two concepts are linked, there is a clear difference: while medical malpractice may result in a wrongful death case, this is not automatic. A wrongful death lawsuit does not have to include medical malpractice, though this is a common reason for bringing a case.