Under New York law, any healthcare provider can be liable for medical malpractice. Why most people assume this to only be physicians, it can absolutely be other healthcare professionals such as nurses, physician assistants, and even physical therapists.
A physical therapist is a healthcare professional who has a doctorate degree. Most physical therapists dissect an entire human body prior to graduating, and are intimately familiar with all aspects of the human anatomy such as muscles, bones, nerves, and organs. Most people do not know this or do not think that a physical therapist gets this kind of training and education prior to graduating, but it is true.
This means that a physical therapist who makes serious mistakes in your care and treatment can be liable for medical malpractice. One of the most common errors by a physical therapist is performing a massage, stretch, or physical manipulation on a patient in such a way that results in damage to a patient’s injured joint, bone, or muscle. This could be a manipulation which also opens up stitches or staples, or which causes physical damage to a patient.
This can also be a stretch that results in dislodging hardware placed into a patient after a surgery, such as after a shoulder surgery or a wrist or heel surgery. This could be pins, screws, or plates. A physical therapist must ensure to use caution and make sure that a patient is ready for certain manipulations before performing them as it can result in serious personal injury requiring additional surgeries to fix the mistakes.
The same is true when a physical therapist requires a patient to perform certain exercises or movements prior to the patient being ready. There is a difference between discomfort and pain, and a physical therapist needs to ensure that he or she gauges a patient’s discomfort properly. If a patient is injured during an exercise given by a physical therapist, it can result in medical malpractice.
Physical therapist also need to exercise their discretion in diagnosing other injuries or problems with the condition the patient is treating with. For example, if a physical therapist believes there may be an infection, a tear, or the surgery failed, the physical therapist has a duty to advise the patient that there may be a complication and/or tell the treating physician. If the physical therapist takes an ostrich defenses—that is, sticks his or her head in the sand and ignores the symptoms—it can result in medical malpractice against the physical therapist.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.