What is the Standard of Care?

Some aspects of medicine can be highly technical and scientific, requiring years of study to master. Many others, however, rely upon the same basic fundamentals for success as every other profession or occupation. This includes proper, timely, and accurate communication, appropriate documentation of observations, not taking shortcuts, and appropriate follow-up, among other things.

A doctor or dentist first needs to go through medical or dental school to figure out which sign or symptom is important. But education is just a starting point. To make sure the patient actually gets the treatment required, in practice he or she also needs a checklist, a good system, and a sound approach.

The Standard of Care in Practicing Medicine

The standard of care is the benchmark that determines whether professional obligations to patients have been met. Failure to meet the standard of care is negligence, which can carry significant consequences for clinicians. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8667701/

Standard of Care Definitions

There are a number of ways in which the Standard of Care is articulated. Some examples include:

  • In Virginia “… that degree of skill and diligence practiced by a reasonably prudent practitioner in the field of practice or specialty in this Commonwealth” per Virginia Code § 8.01-81.20 https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title8.01/chapter21.1/section8.01-581.20/
  • In case law: A physician is required to possess and exercise the degree of skill, knowledge and care ordinarily possessed and exercised by physicians practicing in the same medical specialty under the same or similar circumstances. See Washington v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 579 A.2d 177, 181 (D.C. 1990)
  • In Maryland: the care given by the health care provider is not in accordance with the standards of practice among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience situated in the same or similar communities at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action.
  • Generally, it is what a reasonable and prudent health care provider in the same practice area would do.
  • Or, it is the level of skill, care, and treatment that a reasonably competent health care professional in the same specialty would provide under similar circumstances.

Though the exact definition may vary, the intention is the same. Practitioners must adhere to the standards of practice expected of all professionals in their field and area of practice.

The Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice

In the context of legal claims of malpractice, the Standard of Care is a lynchpin concept. Typically, it is a medical expert witness’s opinion that determines whether a health care provider has breached the standard of care and acted negligently in their treatment of patients.

Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is injured as a result of a healthcare provider’s treatment or activities falling below the Standard of Care.

As they treat patients, health care providers typically rely on their education, training and experience. But that is not always enough. Medical providers need to remain current with ongoing education and training. They need to stay within their area of competence. They may need to consult outside resources, such as medical books and journals. Maybe they should consult another doctor who is either more experienced or or in a different specialty.

Sometimes, there will be a rule or guideline published in the field of medicine that is exactly on point and tells all practitioners what they should do under the circumstances that were involved in a particular case.

Other times, judgment of which principle to use may be required. In the end, the standard of care analysis will all come back to whether the health care provider’s actions or decisions were reasonable under the circumstances.

Consulting with Experienced Malpractice Attorneys

Navigating a medical malpractice lawsuit and understanding the intricacies of the standard of care can be challenging. It is crucial to consult with experienced attorneys specializing in medical malpractice cases. These attorneys possess the knowledge and expertise to analyze the medical evidence, engage qualified medical experts, and build a strong case based on the standard of care.

In conclusion, it’s important to consult with experienced attorneys who have a firm understanding of the standard of care. Wallace Wason, PLLC has decades of experience with malpractice cases. We have the needed understanding of malpractice law, the relationships with medical experts and the know-how to win million dollar settlements. Contact us for a free case evaluation: (703) 638-7717.

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