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Not all medical errors involve treatment mistakes

Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional fails to adhere to accepted standards within the medical profession and harm ensues to the patient. Most of the time this translates into a misdiagnosis or delayed treatment, a surgical error or a prescription error. But sometimes compensable harm can take place even when a doctor is otherwise doing everything right from a strictly medical point of view.

Cases are becoming increasingly apparent, as those who have witnessed them come forward, of physicians behaving toward their patients in ways that can be charitably described as disrespectful. These behaviors can consist of crude and insulting remarks made about a patient under anesthesia while others are present, or engaging in antics that are degrading to the patient. Examples have included a physician who, having saved a woman's life by stopping hemorrhaging during childbirth followed up by engaging in a bizarre dance ritual with a trainee – while his hand was still inside the anesthetized patient -- while singing a song, a physician who was recorded making insulting remarks about another unconscious patient during a colonoscopy, and yet another doctor making inappropriate remarks about a patient during a hysterectomy.

These incidents have some general characteristics in common: they are often directed at female patients and suggest misogynistic thinking on the part of the medical practitioner, they are made while the medical practitioner thinks that the patient will not hear them but while others are present, and often go unreported. It is not unreasonable to expect that some of these unacceptable activities take place in Connecticut medical facilities.

When they become known, though, some of these offensive behaviors have resulted in compensatory settlements and awards of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

If you are under medical treatment, you are entitled to respect and courtesy at all times. Even if the offensive behavior of a medical professional does not cause physical injury, it may still be actionable. If you become aware of statements or acts of someone under whose care you have been placed that were insulting, degrading, or otherwise demeaning to your person, consulting with an attorney experienced with medical malpractice and hospital negligence cases can help you in the determination of whether you may have a legal cause of action against an individual, the health care facility he or she works for, or both.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Misogynistic Doctor Behavior Sparks Ethics Concerns," Steve Sternberg, August 17, 2015

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