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This chapter is meant to be a practical guide for health-care providers who may be unfamiliar with our civil legal system and its terminology, structure, and procedures. Practitioners should always be aware that their practice involves legal issues and that the delivery of appropriate health care and sound medical treatment that meets the standard of care are goals to strive for not only for the patient, but for each practitioner who may at some point be forced to look back at and justify judgments, decisions, and interventions.

This book contains discussion and current peer reviewed references that encourage and mandate appropriate evaluation, interventions, and treatment of wounds, both acute and chronic. While no one decision or intervention may be absolute or correct, what is offered in this text is information and knowledge that affords practitioners the ability to use this information in scientifically acceptable ways to deliver the best care and treatment possible under the various and uncountable circumstances that exist in health care today.

The standard of care for all areas of health-care delivery is developed from many sources, including clinical practice guidelines that may be published by various specialties,1,1a policies and procedures developed by health-care providers or specialty groups, peer-reviewed literature, and sometimes case law. Health-care providers should be held to the standard of care by those within the health-care delivery system as well as the general public. The issues to be determined in medical negligence legal cases are the duty to the patient and the standard of care, if it has been violated, and if that violation has caused particular damages to the complaining party or parties.

This chapter will look at general legal concepts and terms that apply to civil litigation, specifically medical negligence, with a goal of assisting those who deliver care to understand how the system works and how their behavior and care management can impact not only the physical, mental, and social outcome for the patient and family, but also upon issues that may be litigated if persons or agencies are involved in a lawsuit.

Civil Law and Health-Care Providers

This section will familiarize health-care providers with general legal concepts and terms. The law is ever changing and, like medicine, is not exact. Lawyers are advocates and are trained to argue various sides of issues depending on circumstances. Often, there is no clear-cut correct answer, only shades of gray.

Advocacy skills, knowledge of human behavior, and how the "system" works are often the keys to victory when issues present themselves in a legal atmosphere.

Medical Negligence

Medical negligence law has, in the past 5 to 10 years, swung on the pendulum of change to its current state of extreme conservatism in many states. Tort reform has brought changes to the medical negligence arena, ...

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