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Understanding the Standard of Care

Colburn Law

Experiencing a medical error can be both physically and emotionally traumatic. As you seek answers and explore your options for legal recourse, the concept of the standard of care frequently comes into focus. This principle serves as a measure to determine potential negligence committed by healthcare professionals, which can serve as the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Doctor holding a stethoscope

What Is the Medical Standard of Care?

The medical standard of care refers to the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled medical professional, with a similar background and level of training, would have provided under the circumstances that led to the alleged malpractice. The standard of care is essentially the benchmark against which a healthcare professional’s actions are measured to determine if he or she acted competently and diligently in a given situation.

How Is the Standard of Care Used in Medical Malpractice Claims?

For a medical malpractice claim to be valid, you must establish that the healthcare provider in question failed to meet the standard of care expected of him or her. If a doctor or nurse did everything that a reasonably competent practitioner would have done in the same situation, then he or she may not be deemed negligent, even if the outcome was undesirable.

Conversely, if the medical professional failed to act as a typical professional would, and that failure resulted in harm or injury, he or she could be held liable for malpractice. Violations can range from major mistakes to seemingly minor oversights, including:

  • Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of a disease
  • Not ordering necessary tests or interpreting them incorrectly
  • Medication errors, like prescribing the wrong dose or not checking for drug interactions
  • Surgical mistakes, such as operating on the wrong site or leaving instruments inside a patient
  • Not obtaining informed consent before a procedure

For example, if a patient comes in with severe abdominal pain and is quickly dismissed without adequate testing, only to find out later he or she had appendicitis, this might be considered a breach of the standard of care. On the other hand, say that a patient was thoroughly examined and tested for a variety of conditions but still received an incorrect diagnosis due to an unusual presentation of symptoms. This would not likely be a breach, as the healthcare provider took reasonable measures consistent with the standard of care.

How Do You Prove a Breach of Standard of Care in a Lawsuit?

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, proving a breach of the standard of care is a crucial step to recovering compensation. There are several pieces of evidence that you could leverage to establish this fact, such as:

  • Expert Testimony: Medical specialists can shed light on the expected standard of care and debate whether it was upheld by the defendant.
  • Medical Records: These records can provide valuable evidence of the healthcare provider’s decisions and actions.
  • Factual Testimony: Accounts from patients, medical professionals, or other witnesses can corroborate your version of events.

If you suspect that you or a loved one have suffered from medical malpractice, it is crucial to seek legal representation as soon as possible.  An attorney will not only help you determine whether the medical professional breached the standard of care but will also guide you through every step of the legal process. After seeking medical care, contact a medical malpractice lawyer in Seattle and take your first steps toward justice.