What exactly is causation in medical malpractice?

April 14, 2022 | Crandall & Pera Law
What exactly is causation in medical malpractice?

In Ohio, medical malpractice is a term that is used to describe a situation where a patient gets injured as the result of the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional. The issue of causation is often a key factor in medical malpractice cases as the plaintiff must be able to prove that the injury was caused by the negligence of the defendant.

What is causation?

Causation is the legal term for the relationship between an act and a result. In order for someone to be liable for medical malpractice, it must be clearly shown that their actions, or lack thereof, were the cause of the injury. This can be a difficult element to prove as there are often many factors that contribute to a person's injury or illness.

Types of causation

There are two types of causation that are usually considered in a medical malpractice case. These are:
  • Actual cause: Also known as "cause-in-fact," this is the relationship between the defendant's actions and the plaintiff's injury. Did the defendant's negligence actually cause the injury? This is typically the most important type of causation in a medical malpractice case.
  • Proximate cause: This is the legal cause of the injury, which must be clear in order to hold the defendant liable. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant's negligence was a foreseeable and proximate cause of the injury. In other words, the plaintiff must show that the injury would not have occurred but for the defendant's negligence.

Factors that can affect causation

There are many factors that can affect causation, including the nature of the injury. For some injuries, it is more difficult to prove they were a result of the defendant's negligence than others. For example, it may be easier to prove that a surgical error caused an infection than it would be to prove that the doctor's failure to diagnose a disease caused the patient's death. Additionally, the issue of causation can get complicated by the fact that many medical conditions have multiple causes. For example, if a patient has cancer, it may be difficult to determine whether their worsened condition was caused by the doctor's negligence or simply by the natural progression of the disease. Proving causation can definitely be a challenge in a medical malpractice case. However, with the right information and evidence, it is possible to have a strong case.