In Canada, the standards for medical practitioners are high, but those standards are not always met. The failure of a medical practitioner to meet the standards expected of a normal, prudent practitioner of his or her special group is often called “medical malpractice”.
As a result of medical malpractice, a patient may be severely or even fatally injured. Usually, a civil action is the only means for the patient (or the patient’s dependents or estate) to recover compensation for the damages suffered as a result of the injury or death resulting from malpractice. A civil action to recover damages suffered as a result of malpractice is often called a malpractice action.
In civil actions, the person who sues is called the plaintiff and the person who is sued is called the defendant. Usually, in a medical malpractice action, the plaintiff is the patient who has been injured or the representative of the patient’s estate if the patient has been fatally injured, and the defendant is a medical practitioner (e.g. a doctor, chiropractor, nurse, medical or laboratory technician, or pharmacist). Often the employer of the medical practitioner (for example, a hospital authority or a corporation that operates a clinic or laboratory) will also be a defendant.
A patient may also be severely or even fatally injured as a result of an adverse effect of medication, or a defect in a product used by a medical practitioner in diagnosing or treating the patient (e.g. medical equipment, devices, or supplies). When that occurs, the patient or the representative of the plaintiff’s estate may bring an action for product liability against the manufacturer or supplier of the medication or other medical product.
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