What is Medical Battery in healthcare?
The medical battery in healthcare is when a doctor or medical practitioner performs any procedure on a patient without the patient’s consent. An example of a medical battery in healthcare is when a patient is suggested myomectomy or removal of a fibroid in the uterus. The surgeon gets consent from the patient for a myomectomy. Later, the surgeon concludes that a hysterectomy would be better in the case and goes ahead without the patient’s consent. This is a medical battery, and the patient could sue the surgeon.
You may get doubt how come this case is not medical negligence. Medical negligence is an unintentional act or breach of duty by a medical professional which results in harm to the patient. However, medical battery emphasizes the rights of an individual towards the treatment he receives.
It is absolutely plausible that a medical professional who performs therapy on a mentally competent patient without his consent could be held criminally accountable. It is a medical battery to force even beneficial care on an uninformed patient.
A medical battery claim should have the following elements proved
- The act
- Actual Cause
- Proximate Cause
- Touch/ Contact
- Harmful or offensive
In a medical battery lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish any of the below-mentioned arguments.
- The medical procedure was performed without the consent of the plaintiff
- The procedure was not an emergency one
- No consent was obtained from the bystander authorized by the plaintiff
- The procedure was performed against the will of the plaintiff
- The procedure differed significantly from the consent obtained
Medical battery cases could be either civil or criminal, depending upon the specific ground of the case. The law for medical battery varies from one state to another
Medical Malpractice vs. Medical battery
Medical malpractice is an unintentional act caused because of the negligence or breach of duty of any medical professional. However, medical battery is an intentional act that occurred without the consent of the patient.
Proving the intent of the medical professional is the fundamental aspect of a medical battery claim. The plaintiff should establish that the act was intentional and not negligent. However, there is no need to prove that the act resulted in damage to the plaintiff.
Unlike medical malpractice claims, it is not essential to have any damage to pursue a medical battery lawsuit. As a result, the patient who has not been damaged and is actually better off after the procedure could file a medical battery claim.
In a medical battery claim, the restriction on non-economic damages does not apply like that in a medical malpractice litigation.
If both medical malpractice and medical battery are present in a case, the court will evaluate damages and awards depending on the facts.
Legal Consequences of a Medical Battery
Though physical damages are not really required to claim for medical battery, physical damages may help the claim process. If the plaintiff sustains any physical damages or harm, it could be claimed. Physical injury may cover cuts, bruises, or physical pain. It should be noted that even when the physical damages ended up in a beneficial result to the plaintiff, the claim is still possible.
Non-economic damages could also be claimed in the medical battery. The plaintiff could claim for the anxiety, loss of enjoyment, inability to perform day-to-day activities, and mental shock endured due to the procedure.
Common Defense Points Used in the Claim
- The plaintiff was informed about the procedure. This could be established with the medical documents of the patient.
- The physician performed the procedure under a medical emergency
- The patient was not conscious or incapacitated to give consent for the medical procedure
- The physician performed a deviation during the medical procedure to protect the patient. However, this could be disputed by the patient
- The bystander has rendered consent for the procedure
Role of Informed Consent in the Claim
Medical treatment is always a race between risks and benefits. Especially when it comes to surgical procedures, weightage is very crucial. The physician should explain to the patient the pros and cons of the procedure with all the possible side effects and complications.
Informed consent is the document duly signed by the patient or his bystander stating that they are aware of the procedure to be performed by the medical professional. Informed consent is very crucial not just for the patient but also for the physician to avoid being held for med mal or medical battery claims.
When a physician plans a surgery or any procedure as part of the treatment, informed consent should be obtained from the patient. If there is any deviation from the plan, it should be communicated to the patient, and another informed consent should be obtained. If the patient is not in a mental state to give consent, the bystander should be contacted.
Medical Battery Case Study
For your better understanding of medical battery claims, let me give you an example of a medical battery that ended up in compensation to the victim.
In 2014, a 41 years old male consulted a physician with a small mass in his scrotum. The patient reported mild scrotum pain but was sexually active with no penis dysfunction. The physician suggested the surgical removal of a small portion of the mass for biopsy.
The physician informed the patient that the surgery would involve a small incision in the scrotum via a non-invasive procedure and removal of the mass that was expected to be about 1cm. He also discussed the possibility of infection, swelling, discomfort, and injury to the surrounding tissue with the patient. The patient signed the informed consent form and gave his ex-wife the consent to make medical decisions on his behalf.
During the surgery, the physician discovered that the mass was 8 × 5 × 2.5 cm, and it spread towards the penis. The mass was also vascularized, affecting the nerves. The physician suspected the mass to be malignant and decided to remove the entire mass instead of removing a small portion for biopsy. The physician knew that removing the whole mass would involve the penis and leave the patient impotent. He failed to read the patient’s medical proxy, authorizing his wife to make medical decisions. He performed the surgery without discussing the revised surgery plan with the patient’s ex-wife.
The biopsy result reported that the mass was a benign cystic lymphangioma. A few weeks after the surgery, the patient reported to the ER, reporting infection and boils in the surgical area, pain in the penis, difficulty in urination, numbness, and impotence.
Even after two reconstructive surgeries, the patient could gain only partial functioning of the penis and was not sexually active. He filed a lawsuit against the physician for medical battery and medical malpractice. The lawsuit ended up in compensation of $9.25 million to the claimant.
Every patient has the right to know how the doctor plans to proceed with his treatment. Unless it is an emergency, the physician should not perform any procedure without the consent of the patient. A personal injury attorney experienced in medical battery claims could help the victim to prove the claim by exhibiting substantial evidence. Medical charts of the plaintiff would help the attorney in the claim. Testimony from an expert witness would help in the argument.