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The medical-legal implications.

 plaintiff must establish all five elements of the tort of negligence for a successful medical malpractice claim.[11]

  1. A duty was owed: a legal duty exists whenever a hospital or health care provider undertakes care or treatment of a patient.
  2. A duty was breached: the provider failed to conform to the relevant standard care.
  3. The breach caused an injury: The breach of duty was a direct cause and the proximate cause of the injury.
  4. Deviation from the accepted standard: It must be shown that the practitioner was acting in a manner which was contrary to the generally accepted standard in his/her profession.
  5. Further establishment of conditions of intention or malice where applicable.[2]
  6. Damage: Without damage (losses which may be pecuniary or emotional), there is no basis for a claim, regardless of whether the medical provider was negligent. Likewise, damage can occur without negligence, for example, when someone dies from a fatal disease.

In cases involving suicide, physicians and particularly psychiatrists may be to a different standard than other defendants in a tort claim. In most tort cases, suicide is legally viewed as an act which terminates a chain of causality. Although the defendant may be held negligent for another’s suicide, he or she is not responsible for damages which occur after the act. An exception is made for physicians who are found to have committed malpractice that results in a suicide, with damages assessed based on losses that are proved likely to accrue after the act of suicide.[1