How the Medical Standard of Care Applies to Malpractice

Medical malpractice cases arise when there has been negligence on the part of a doctor or other healthcare provider. This does not mean simply that a mistake was made or that the outcome was not the one that had been anticipated. There must have been a breach of an obligation to meet a specific level of care and that breach must have directly contributed to the harm suffered by the patient. Even if there is an error or mistake made by a healthcare provider that arose from sub-standard care, it will not support a malpractice case if there was no harm caused by the mistake.

Negligence leading to a sustainable malpractice case means that the doctor or other healthcare provider deviated from the established medical standard of care for a person or facility under the same circumstances with similar backgrounds. For a doctor, this means that the standard of care is based on what a prudent and competent doctor with similar education, training, and experience would have done under the same or similar circumstances.

Although medical malpractice cases vary widely, some of the general types of claims are based on the following errors or reckless actions:

  • An anesthesiologist fails to administer the proper medication to a patient or does not monitor the patient for signs of distress;
  • An emergency room doctor does not provide the proper type of care after an accident – it is important to realize that an ER doctor is going to be measured against a competent and prudent doctor under similar circumstances, rather than a doctor who is providing care under less stressful circumstances;
  • A surgeon fails to remove all foreign objects from a patient’s body following a surgical procedure;
  • An obstetrician does not order an emergency Cesarean section in a timely manner;
  • A nursing home physician does not follow proper protocol in monitoring and treating residents for bed sores; or
  • A nurse does not follow a doctor’s instructions in administering medications to a patient.

Using an Expert Witness to Show Negligence

In a medical malpractice case, there are experts who are brought in to establish the applicable standard of care for the individual or facility alleged to have committed the malpractice. In addition, the expert will offer testimony about how the healthcare provider deviated from the established standard of care in order to demonstrate negligence. In most medical malpractice cases, the expert will have to be from the same field and specialty of the person being accused of negligence in order to give admissible testimony or have that testimony given crucial consideration by the judge or jury.

In addition to general medical malpractice cases, there are specific cases where there is a higher standard for certain medical specialties. This applies when the doctor or other medical professional is supposed to have highly specialized knowledge and apply that expertise in a skilled and effective manner. Some of the fields in which this specialized requirement applies include:

  • Anesthesiology;
  • Allergy;
  • Cardiology;
  • Internal medicine;
  • Neurology;
  • Ophthalmology;
  • Pediatrics; and
  • Surgical specializations.

When malpractice is alleged to have occurred, it is necessary to demonstrate the following:

  • The standard that applies to the particular healthcare provider;
  • How the care that was provided fell below the care that would have been provided by a reasonable medical professional with the same general training, experience, and skills; and
  • The substandard care was the direct and proximate cause of the harm suffered by the patient.

In many jurisdictions, it is necessary to have a signed affidavit or certification from the medical expert who will testify during the case before the court will even allow the case to move forward. This means that a victim of medical malpractice or his or her family must gather all relevant documents and, if possible, submit to a medical exam before the case can be filed. This is one of many reasons why it is so important to seek legal advice as soon as possible if medical malpractice is suspected.

Stern Law, PLLC Works to Get the Right Results for Malpractice Victims

There are millions of people who are treated by doctors and other healthcare providers without incident every year. However, when a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional makes a serious mistake, the impact on the patient and his or her family can be devastating. At Stern Law, PLLC, our attorney has spent more than 30 years fighting for those who have suffered long-term or permanent harm because of a trusted mistake by a doctor or other healthcare provider. We also provide resources for those who have been impacted by medical malpractice, whether directly or as the family or loved one of a person who was harmed by negligence. We have people available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone who has a question or concern, regardless of whether or not you are our client. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.

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