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Medical Malpractice: Introduction


This LibGuide is designed as an introduction to researching medical malpractice issues.

Guide Authorship

This guide was originally created by Emily Crane in support of Professor Diamond's Advanced Legal Research class for Fall 2017. 


This research guide is intended for use by law students and new attorneys who are interested in medical malpractice and the legal regime surrounding it. This guide compiles secondary sources (books, treatises, articles), primary sources (statutes & cases), and current awareness tools from Missouri and beyond.

Since medical malpractice is a huge industry, the bulk of this guide focuses on providing sources that will help you orient yourself in relation to the past, present, and future of medical malpractice. Additionally, due to the fact that medical malpractice actions vary from state to state, this guide goes in-depth into the law of Missouri only. However, the fourth tab of this guide provides helpful starting points for all other jurisdictions.

Although medical malpractice and the legal issues surrounding it are constantly evolving, this guide attempts to provide a mix of resources that provide timeless background information, the history of developments in the field, and a snapshot of the current state of affairs. Additionally, unless otherwise indicated, none of the sources cited on this guide require a purchase or a subscription to a database such as LexisNexis or Westlaw. However, a Westlaw subscription would be helpful for this guide since it provides access to all of the treatises cited in the "Secondary Sources" tab.

Please see below for answers to some preliminary questions, or click on one of the tabs above to get started.


What is medical malpractice?

Legally speaking, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider violates the standard of care, the patient is injured due to the violation, and the injury results in cognizable damage to the patient. Liability for medical malpractice is based in tort law, specifically related to negligence. Essentially, medical malpractice is the result of a healthcare provider's negligence in caring for or treating the patient.

Who can commit medical malpractice?

The definitions vary from state to state, but, generally speaking, any licensed medical professional (e.g., physicians, nurses, chiropractors, etc.) may be held liable for medical malpractice. Sometimes, even hospitals are held liable for the medical malpractice of the practitioners they hire.

  • Fun fact: Studies show that less than 2% of doctors are responsible for half of all medical malpractice lawsuits. In other words, over $41 million (!) worth of lawsuit payouts are attributable to less than 2% of all doctors.

What causes medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice happens for a variety of reasons. Most healthcare professionals are overworked, so fatigue often plays a role in medical negligence. Additionally, due to stress, many healthcare providers turn to drugs and alcohol. Intoxication clouds focus and impairs decision making, which often results in a violation of the standard of care. Finally, it is important to remember that healthcare providers are only human, and humans make mistakes. Some medical malpractice is simply due to unpreventable error.