What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice?

Visiting a medical professional often assumes a level of trust in the provider’s skills, care, and expertise. If you think about it, there is really no reason to entrust a physician with whatever ails you if you do not trust them. Being sick, whether it be with a cold or cancer, makes all of us feel vulnerable, in part because we just cannot do what we could days, weeks, or even months ago.

Unfortunately, whether because of a lack of professionalism, adherence to standard practices within their specialty, or a disregard of proper technique, mistakes happen. Unlike many other professions, doctors are afforded a very small margin of error, because even a “minor mistake” can prove fatal.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a physician harms a patient due to negligence, carelessness, or purposeful deviation from accepted medical norms. In order to determine whether a doctor’s activity or inactivity caused a patient’s demise, their behavior must be evaluated according to what a “reasonable person” would deem inappropriate.

Physician mishaps are evaluated through a medical lens but must meet specific legal criteria in order to be defined as medical malpractice. Furthermore, the conditions under which the damage occurred must demonstrate negligence in the provider’s duties to their patient, as well as a breach of duty, harm, and causation.


Health care providers are duty bound to provide appropriate care to their patients. The Hippocratic Oath requires that physicians “do no harm or injustice,” as does federal and municipal law.

Breach of Duty

A breach of duty assumes that the defendant, in this case, the physician, has a legal duty to their patient. Duties are considered to be breached if the doctor acts in a way that deviates from standard practices of care, or does not act in a manner that meets those same standards. If the doctor’s behavior is deemed medically inappropriate through the lens of a reasonable person, the doctor may be guilty of a breach of duty.


After duty has been established and a breach in that duty has been confirmed, the law examines the patient’s injuries to determine if they were in fact caused by their physician. If the resultant harm is seen as something that would likely not have happened but for the doctor’s care or lack thereof, causation can be confirmed. However, if that harm could have occurred by any other means, such as the natural progression of the condition being treated, causation can be harder to discern.

Proximate Cause

Within the principle of causation is the doctor’s knowledge of likely injuries that could result from the provision of care. Proximate causes of injury can include anything from the occurrence of standard and foreseeable risk factors to neglecting to gather a patient’s full medical history.


After duty has been established, a breach of duty determined, and causation confirmed, the law seeks to verify that the patient’s injuries are real and can be demonstrated as such. In the absence of proven injury, medical malpractice cannot be determined.

Where to Turn if You Are Suffering From the Fallout of Medical Malpractice

Establishing medical malpractice can be incredibly difficult, even for those who possess a great deal of knowledge regarding personal injury. If you are in New York City and are unsure of where to turn and whether or not you are suffering from the results of medical malpractice, you need to call Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff and Wolff. Together, they will help you determine what you are facing and how to proceed in the most supportive way possible.