A significant number of people have experienced medical malpractice. Some of them have resulted in health complications, while others have involved death. In fact, the reality is so grim that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. And while victims and their families face these dire circumstances (and the pain that comes along with it), they also have to brace themselves for the ensuing lawsuits. Proving that a healthcare professional made a mistake can be a difficult proposition. Thankfully, new technologies such as 3D printing can make the process move along at a faster pace and possibly become more cost-effective.
What is 3D Printing?
Three-dimensional printing (3D printing) is the process of creating physical, solid objects from a digital file. This is accomplished by continuously laying down hundreds or thousands of thin layers of material. The initial model can be created using computer-aided design (CAD) software or by downloading from a 3D library.
The slicing is done by dedicated slicing software. This software uses code to translate digital 3D models into a concept a 3D printer can understand. This creates a path for the 3D printer to follow—including instructions on the shape and thickness of each layer.
Originally, 3D printing was exclusively used for creating prototypes. However, as the technology has advanced, it is now also used in the early stages of manufacturing. This is convenient for industries since it provides a faster, more cost-effective way to create items.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the legal term used to refer to injuries that are the result of a negligent act or omission by a healthcare professional or medical institution. This includes incidents in diagnosis, treatment, or health management. In order for an event to be considered as medical malpractice, the person making the claim must prove four elements:
- Duty of care. The healthcare professional must owe a duty of care to the injured person, by nature of establishing a doctor/patient relationship.
- A deviation from the standard of care. Did the healthcare provider fail to meet certain medical standards typically used to treat similar conditions? This would be considered to be a breach of the duty of care.
- The negligence caused the injury. The patient must show that their condition worsened as a result of the doctor’s negligence. Therefore, if a healthcare professional makes a mistake, but this mistake does not result in injury, the patient will not have a valid malpractice claim.
- Damages from the injury. Damages include financial costs of having to pay for additional medical treatment, wrongful death, and/or compensation for pain and suffering or loss of consortium by a loved one (this latter one being how the injury affects the patient’s relationship with their spouse).
How 3D Printing Can Help in Medical Malpractice Cases
As with any case that involves litigation, medical malpractice cases involve lengthy discovery. 3D printing can make this process more practical in several ways.
Availability of Replicas
In order to prove that medical negligence occurred, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate on models of body parts or organs. They may also have to showcase how an instrument was not used properly, or how the equipment was defective. 3D printing provides the ability to recreate each of the required components to reenact scenarios for investigators, experts, judges, and juries.
3D printing allows parties to create replicas at a much faster rate than having them manufactured at a factory or ordering them from a supplier. This can help litigation move along more expediently—in turn reducing attorney’s fees and providing more expeditious relief for injured patients.
When products and replicas are produced the traditional way, they require the use of expensive molds and equipment, sometimes to the point of being prohibitive. However, 3D printing brings the option of getting models done by simply using much more cost-effective software.
Medical malpractice cases are difficult to prove and often present an uphill battle. 3D printing technology offers a practical solution to piece together all elements of the case. Along with expert testimony, it can make it significantly more viable to prove your case in court.
About the Author
Mitchell J. Panter is a board-certified civil trial lawyer and member of the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Two of his main areas of focus in his law practice include personal injury and wrongful death. He has also addressed strict and product liability issues before the Florida Supreme Court.