Maryland Court Explains Deliberate Indifference Versus Medical Malpractice

In cases where doctors harm their patients, most often, the harm is unintentional. However, in some situations, a physician’s actions may be so egregious that they are considered deliberate. Typically, claims of deliberate indifference to a patient’s medical needs arise in the context of medical treatment provided to incarcerated individuals. It’s essential to recognize the distinctions between deliberate indifference and medical malpractice claims, as highlighted in a recent Maryland case. If you have been injured as a result of a doctor’s negligent or intentional actions, it is advisable to consult with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney to assess the potential claims you may be able to pursue.

Case Background

It is alleged that the plaintiff, who is housed in a federal facility in Maryland, filed a lawsuit against the defendant. He claimed, in part, that in July 2020, he injured his right knee while attempting to access the top bunk in his cell using a plastic chair provided to him. He alleged that despite seeking medical attention for over a year, he received minimal treatment, including Tylenol, and was promised referrals to providers that never materialized.  He also claimed that in July 2022, he was attacked by other inmates, aggravating his knee injury. His lawsuit asserted, among other things, that the defendant violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide timely and appropriate care for his knee condition. The defendant moved to dismiss his claims.

Deliberate Indifference Versus Medical Malpractice

The court granted the defendant’s motion. In doing so, the court explained that in order to establish a claim for denial of medical care under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s actions or omissions were done with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.

Deliberate indifference involves both objective and subjective elements. Objectively, the plaintiff must show the existence of a serious medical condition, either diagnosed by a physician or so obvious that even a layperson would recognize the need for medical attention. Subjectively, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant was aware of the need for medical attention but failed to provide it or ensure its availability, and this failure was reckless.

The court elaborated that mere negligence or malpractice does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation, and disagreements between an inmate and a physician regarding treatment do not establish a § 1983 claim unless exceptional circumstances are alleged.

In the subject case, the court found that the defendant addressed the plaintiff’s knee complaints, even though not all interactions were face-to-face due to COVID-19 policies. The plaintiff’s claims against them are based on their inability to control provider visits, order alternative treatments, or address his complaints beyond medication renewal, which the court concluded failed to show deliberate indifference. As a result, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants as to the deliberate indifference claim.

Speak to an Experienced Maryland Attorney

Patients have the right to expect skilled medical care regardless of the treatment setting, and if this standard of care is not met, patients may have legal recourse. If you believe you have suffered losses due to a doctor’s negligence, you should consult an attorney regarding your legal options. The experienced Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys at the Arfaa Law Group can evaluate the specific details of your case and provide guidance on potential claims you may have. You can contact us by filling our online form or by calling (410) 889-1850 to schedule a consultation. Whether you’ve suffered injuries or losses due to a doctor’s recklessness, seeking legal advice is a crucial step to protect your rights and explore potential avenues for compensation.


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