A jury this weekend ruled that two ER doctors who treated actor John Ritter after he collapsed on the set of his sitcom weren’t at fault in his death.
Ritter’s family had filed a multimillion dollar wrongful death lawsuit against the physicians, who treated Ritter for a heart attack, not the torn aorta he had. The hospital where he was treated has already settled with the family of the Emmy Award-winning actor, best known for “Three’s Company” and “Eight Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter.”
Certainly, there’s been some debate about wheter this jury made the right decision. And I’m sure that Ritter’s family will never feel at peace with this decision or his death. In fact, a lot of families feel that way.
More often than we’d probably all like to believe, people die as a result of some medical “accident.” But are all medical accidents grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit?
The short answer is no.
To win a medical malpractice case, you must prove that you (or your loved) one received substandard care and suffered an injury that resulted in damages. To mount a successful medical malpractice claim, you have to be able to prove that the medical outcome would probably have been different had the patient not received substandard care.
These are complex legal issues that can be very confusing for most lay people. Add grief to that confusion, and it’s no wonder that people struggle with whether to file a medical malpractice or wrongful death case.
On the one hand, most grieving family don’t want to appear litigious. They want to trust the doctors and trust that their loved one received the best possible care. But on the other hand, they’re likely to want someone to be held responsible for their loved one’s death, especially if it was preventable. And they don’t just want to forget about it because by doing so they may feel like they’re saying that their loved one’s life didn’t mean anything.
If you’re struggling with these issues, remember that you alone don’t have to determine if your loved one’s death was the result of medical malpractice. Consult an attorney, who knows the law and who has dealt with these kinds of cases before, and that person can give you advice on whether to pursue a lawsuit.
Asking for an attorney’s input can be a way of honoring your loved one.