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Aug 7, 2015 by |

Medical Malpractice Versus Elder Abuse

Nursing homes are attractive living options for older Californians who may not want to live alone or may need medical attention and hands-on assistance fairly regularly. Nursing homes provide a 24/7 support system, complete with healthcare professionals and on-call doctors and nurses, to make residents comfortable and take care of their needs.

Many families rely on these facilities and their staff members to be there for older loved ones when family members cannot. Occasionally, however, there are tragic cases where nursing home residents pass away while in the care of such facilities.

Often, with old age comes health complications and aging bodies and organs, but nursing homes have a responsibility to provide high quality care to their residents and do their best to provide medical attention and respond to emergency situations.

A Look at the Issues

Elder abuse is one problem currently ravaging nursing homes across the state of California and the rest of the nation, but there is another problem — medical malpractice. Sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate what is going on in a particular nursing home with a particular resident.

Malpractice occurs whenever a doctor, nurse, or medical professional makes a mistake. Missed symptoms, a failure to diagnose a series of conditions, incorrect diagnoses or wrong prescriptions for medicine — all of these constitute malpractice and negligence, and can be used to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor or nurse at fault.

According to the law, medical malpractice is a failure to provide the standard of care that is recognized across the board with respect to a particular set of circumstances. In other words, malpractice may have occurred if one doctor or nurse did something differently or failed to do what his or her colleagues would have done when presented with the same patient or scenario.

Malpractice could be a range of acts or inactions — a mistake, a new or inexperienced doctor or nurse, a call made under pressure, a rare disease, a tough call that turned out to be the wrong one. Medical professionals are responsible for all aspects of patient care, and this responsibility extends to the patient’s outcome.

In contrast, elder abuse is characterized by willful actions that result in violence or injury to an older person. Any conduct that is considered more than negligent or deliberate can be treated as elder abuse.

For example, a nursing home may have policies for having two people move an immobile resident when changing bedding. But if an assistant decides to take a shortcut and moves the patient alone, it could cause an injury. This can be considered elder abuse because the assistant made a mistake but knew that his decision was against the rules.

Nursing home abuse cases may have a wider scope than malpractice cases, which is one reason why elders may choose to claim abuse instead of malpractice. However, these two cases can be intricately linked and it’s important to work with a California elder abuse attorney to determine your options under the law.

To discuss your case, contact the Evans Law Firm, Inc., either online at or by phone at 415-441-8669 today.

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