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In Canada, the standards of medical practitioners are high. However, in some cases, those standards are not met. The failure of a medical practitioner to meet the standards expected of a normal, prudent practitioner of his or her special group is often called “medical malpractice”.
As a result of medical malpractice, a patient may be severely (or even fatally) injured. Usually, a civil action is the only means for the patient (or the patient's dependants or estate) to recover compensation for the damages suffered as a result of the injury (or death) resulting from malpractice. A civil action to recover damages suffered as a result of malpractice is often called a malpractice action.
In civil actions, the person who sues is called the plaintiff and the person who is sued is called the defendant. Usually in a medical malpractice action, the plaintiff is the patient who has been injured (or the representative of the patient’s estate, if the patient has been fatally injured), and the defendant is a medical practitioner (for example, a doctor, chiropractor, nurse, medical or laboratory technician or pharmacist). Often the employer of the medical practitioner (for example, a hospital authority or a corporation that operates a clinic or laboratory) will also be a defendant.
A patient may also be severely (or even fatally) injured as a result of an adverse effect of medication or a defect in a product used by a medical practitioner in diagnosing or treating the patient (for example, medical equipment, devices or supplies). When that occurs, the patient (or the representative of the patient’s estate) may bring an action for product liability against the manufacturer or supplier of the medication or other medical product.