A Reputation Built By Success

The importance of the standard of care in malpractice claims

Medical malpractice involves inadequate care, negligence or inexcusable mistakes that should never occur. Many people mistakenly assume that any negative medical outcome could provide grounds for a medical malpractice case. However, medical malpractice is not about the patient’s outcome but rather the work of the physician and other medical professionals involved in the care and treatment of that patient.

One of the simplest ways to establish that a situation involved medical malpractice is to prove to the court that the physician’s actions deviated from the standard of care for patients with a particular condition. If you can prove through medical records or testimony that the medical decisions made did not reflect what a reasonable physician would do, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

What exactly is a standard of care?

Different individuals and circumstances have a different standard of care that applies to them. As confusing as that may seem, physicians must make unique, individualized determinations in how they treat a patient based on factors such as age, other pre-existing health conditions and the severity of the condition as it presents in this patient.

For certain conditions, there is a widely accepted standard of care. There are certain protocols that all physicians should follow when a patient presents a common medical emergency like a stroke or a heart attack. In more unique circumstances, the prevailing medical opinion on treatment, the best practices published by the hospital or medical facility where the position works, and the likely decisions made by other physicians in the same position will all determine the standard of care.

If you can show that what the doctor did in your situation deviated from what other doctors would do, you may have grounds to bring a claim against that professional.

Reviewing your medical records and making your own notes helps

In a way, medical records are one-sided documentation of a complex relationship between a physician and a patient. The physician, for example, might make a point of carefully noting their own recommendations in the notes while failing to record all of the symptoms reported by the patient in an appointment.

In other words, the medical documentation for your situation may not actually reflect what has happened between you and the doctor. Keeping your own records and documentation about conversations and issues you have had will make it easier for you to demonstrate how your physician ignored certain symptoms or made suggestions that were well outside the standard of care for your current condition.