Medical Malpractice in Italy
In the last decades, litigation regarding alleged medical malpractice has increased exponentially. Medical Malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional such as a doctor, nurse or technician treats a patient in a manner, which departs from a standard of care provided by those with similar training and experience, resulting in injury, ailment or death. The concept includes the one of medical misdiagnosis, which is when a patient suffer significant injuries for a missing, improper or delayed diagnosis, and matters of misdiagnosis represent nowadays one of the primary reasons for medical malpractice claims to be filed.
A medical practitioner in Italy can be held liable not only for civil issues before a civil court (Tribunale Civile), but as well for criminal ones before a criminal court (Tribunale Penale). Some actions may in fact constitute censurable conducts for the Italian Criminal Code as personal injuries. The Code defines this offense as “an event which, even if unintentional, occurred due to negligence, imprudence, inexperience or failure to comply with laws, regulations, orders and disciplines” (art. 43, Italian Criminal Code).
Personal injury, according to Italian Law, may consist in:
- Negligence (negligenza), which is lack of due care and means the omission of necessary precautions. For example, when the surgeon leaves clips, instruments or gauze sponges in the surgical wound.
- Imprudence (imprudenza) that is the case of a given medical action realized in absence of all the necessary precautions that common experience suggests. For example if a surgeon performs complex and delicate surgery despite knowing that he is not in perfect physical condition.
- Inexperience (imperizia) that is the lack of adequate training in activities, which require specialised technical knowledge. It means a deficiency of practice, intuition, capacity or technical expertise.
Medicine is commonly known to be a matter of uncertainty in the legal world for its several unpredictable outcomes, complications or reactions due to scientific progress. This peculiar nature of the field makes it quite hard to grade correctly the performance and results of medical practitioners, which is why a crucial mean of protection for professionals is to obtain a previous informed consent of their patients.
In case of undesirable outcomes of the procedure, an inadequate set of information given by the professional, or incomplete or false information are likely to constitute a civil and even criminal liability. When found liable, the medical practitioner may suffer some serious legal implications and the victims become entitled to start a claim for all damages suffered. Under Italian Law, damages payable fall into the following categories: patrimonial damages, biological/aesthetic damages, moral damages and psychological suffering.
Legal claims for Medical Malpractice against health organizations are growing phenomenon in Italy. Due probably also to the recent changes in legislation (Guide to medical negligence. The 2017 reform on civil liability), patients and their relatives seem to no longer be willing to accept hospital and medical negligence.
A general awareness of rights to medical malpractice compensations has spread, together with a belief that that suing a health care provider could avoid similar future mistakes by increasing the attention hospitals give to protocol and higher quality standards. Surely, the amount of compensation at stake, which can reach high figures for serious injuries, is likely to increase the risk for fraudulent requests. Therefore, it is crucial to ask for the support of a Law Firm has a strong Medical Malpractice Area, counting on lawyers able to detect and address critical situations and to assist Italian and non-Italian victims of clinical negligence.