A medical assistant calls in medication for a patient without the doctor knowing. The patient dies.

Is this a criminal or a civil case?

Asked on June 15, 2009 under Malpractice Law, Florida

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It's definitely a civil case, for the family of the deceased patient.  If the medication was negligently prescribed -- or if the failure to make sure the doctor knew about the prescription had something to do with the patient's death -- then a court might find malpractice.

A criminal prosecution would not help the victim's family.  In many states, health care professionals like Physician's Assistants or Nurse Practitioners, which are specific licensed occupations, are allowed to prescribe some medications.  But if someone who didn't have legal permission to do that called in a prescription, without being told to do so by the doctor (or another properly licensed person), that might be a criminal offense.


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