Medical Omission vs. Commission: Which Is Malpractice?

Medical errors in South Carolina are often classified in two ways—acts of omission and commission—and either can qualify as malpractice in certain situations. Because these mistakes can arise from inaction or action, discovering the cause of your harm can be a complex process. Knowing what qualifies as a medical omission versus a commission can help you identify and assess common healthcare errors. And when you know which oversights and medical blunders qualify as malpractice, you’re better prepared to protect yourself or a loved one from medical mistakes.

What’s the Difference Between Medical Errors of Omission vs. Commission?

A medical error of omission refers to an action not taken, such as failing to strap a patient into a wheelchair or not recording allergies in a patient’s chart. A medical error of commission is an action performed that contributes to a negative outcome, such as giving a patient the wrong medicine that subsequently causes an allergic reaction, or diagnosing a person with the wrong disease. Both types of mistakes can qualify as malpractice in South Carolina. 

Acts of omission can be more difficult to recognize than commission. When a healthcare provider fails to provide care, the omission often goes undocumented. For example, a dose of medicine that wasn’t administered wouldn’t be recorded in the person’s chart.

Medical Omissions Resulting in Malpractice in South Carolina

For medical omissions to qualify as malpractice in South Carolina, a nurse, doctor, or healthcare provider must fail to use their training to adequately treat a patient, thus causing harm, injury, or another detrimental effect. Not every inaction meets the requirements of South Carolina medical malpractice laws.

Some examples of medical errors that result in malpractice due to an omission include:

  • Failing to properly evaluate a patient or condition
  • Failing to inform a patient of a life-saving procedure or treatment
  • Failing to order or perform diagnostic testing
  • Failing to prescribe medication to improve a patient’s condition

A challenge with errors of omission is that many patients won’t realize the misstep has occurred. Even if the impact of the error is minimal, a series of these mistakes can have compounding effects and lead to a more serious injury or illness. 

Malpractice by Commission in South Carolina

Acts of commission that are considered malpractice in South Carolina are those in which a healthcare provider makes a decision to act but it is the wrong choice, and the treatment, medication, or operation violates the standard of care owed to the patient. Acts of commission often get more attention because these errors are perceived as egregious and careless, but any type of malpractice can lead to tragedy. 

Examples of medical errors resulting from commission include:

  • Prescribing the wrong medication 
  • Performing the wrong surgery
  • Misdiagnosing a condition 

Proving Medical Errors of Commission vs. Omission in South Carolina Courts

Medical errors of commission and omission must meet certain criteria to be valid claims in South Carolina’s judicial system. While identifying the source of the error can require different investigative methods, proving these mistakes follows the same course. All malpractice claims must accomplish these goals:

  1. Establish that the healthcare provider failed to exercise the degree of care, skill, or knowledge expected of someone in his or her position and under similar circumstances.
  2. Show that the provider’s action was the cause of the harm, illness, or injury. 

Filing a malpractice claim for medical errors in South Carolina also requires expert testimony supporting that the injury was caused by the healthcare professional’s action or inaction.

Medical errors in South Carolina are more common than most people might realize, and any phase of medical treatment, from diagnosing a condition to performing surgery, can result in malpractice. There are medical malpractice Statutes of Limitations in South Carolina for negligent medical acts and improper care. Reach out to a medical malpractice advocate to understand these deadlines and learn how an omission or commission could be the source of the harm you or a loved one is experiencing.