Common Defenses to Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice describes negligence by medical professionals. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals must do everything possible to limit harm to patients. Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, in which they swear to do no harm. Medical malpractice is any negligent action by a medical professional that results in harm to a patient. The standard of comparison is typically whether or not another professional with similar skills in the same situation would have taken the same action. If you have any questions regarding the specifics of your case, consider speaking with a dedicated Kansas City medical malpractice attorney.

Malpractice And “Standard of Care”

While medical malpractice is a serious issue leading to thousands of lawsuits across the country, there are various protections in place for accused medical professionals. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals may have vital jobs that require extensive training, but they are still human and liable to make mistakes. The protections in place for medical professionals accused of malpractice exist to separate actual negligence from unavoidable harm or reasonable mistakes in the course of treatment that are in line with the medically acceptable standard of care for the situation.


There are countless known medical conditions, and medical science has evolved to a point where most ailments have known cures or treatments that the medical community agrees are the best methods for treating these issues. This is the “standard of care.” Doctors and other medical professionals must refer to the accepted standard of care to treat patients, but each patient and every case are different. Medicine is inherently uncertain, so medical professionals must use their best judgment in any given situation.


In some situations, the attending medical professionals may deem that a deviation from the typical standard of care is appropriate for a patient. For example, imagine a patient is in the hospital for a rare disease. There is a known cure for the disease, but the patient is violently allergic to one of the compounds used to synthesize the cure. The doctor has heard of an experimental treatment that has been successful in some cases but remains unverified by the medical community at large. If the doctor administers this treatment and causes additional harm to the patient, he or she has committed hospital malpractice and you can sue.


One common defense against a malpractice charge is that the deviation from the standard of care caused no additional harm. Doctors must use their best judgment for each patient and this sometimes means thinking outside the box and typical treatments. In some cases, a doctor or other medical professional accused of malpractice can defend against such a charge due to the patient’s actions.

Informed Consent

Patients have the right to informed consent, which means they have the right to know all the risks associated with a treatment so they can decide for themselves whether or not they are willing to take those risks. If a doctor violates informed consent by failing to notify a patient of known risks of a treatment and the patient suffers harm as a result, the doctor is guilty of medical malpractice. However, the patient must also be forthcoming about his or her medical history and any other information pertinent to treatment. If the patient hides relevant information from his or her doctor and the treatment results in harm, the doctor made medically sound decisions based on the information provided by the patient and has not committed malpractice.

Patient negligence may also serve as a defense against a medical malpractice claim. Doctors apply their treatments and provide patients with instructions for aftercare. If a patient is negligent or fails to follow these instructions, the patient cannot turn around and claim medical malpractice. Ultimately, the determining factor in medical malpractice cases is whether or not the doctor’s actions were acceptable given the circumstances and the standard of care upheld by the medical community.