What is Meant by a Breach of the Standard of Care in a Medical Malpractice Case?
- March 29, 2017
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed due to the improper actions of a medical professional. Those actions may be acts of omission in which the professional fails to perform a responsibility designed to aid in the healing of the patient. Actions such as intentionally engaging in activities that are detrimental to the patient would also be grounds for malpractice.
One of the phrases that the personal injury attorney will use while asking questions about the events surrounding the malpractice is the standard of care. Taking things one step further, the attorney will seek to identify how that standard of care was breached. Here are a few facts and examples that will help the client understand why this is so important to the case.
Understanding What is Meant by Standard of Care
As it relates to medical matters, the standard of care refers to the level of professional medical assistance that applies in a particular situation. The actual standard focuses on what resources are on hand and how well they are used in the care of the patient. The standard is arrived at by determining that any medical professional with access to the same equipment and other resources would be able to treat the patient with the same level of care as a similar medical professional.
For example, all family physicians who operate similar practices within a city or town and have access to the same support facilities and equipment would be expected to provide similar levels or standards of care. If one or more local family doctors consistently fail to do so, it can be said that they are offering sub-standard care to their patients.
What Constitutes a Breach of the Standard of Care?
When a medical professional, either by omission, error, or omission, chooses to not make use of the resources on hand to treat an ailing patient, the potential for a breach of the standard of care arises. In the event that those actions do result in some type of injury or health complication for the patient, a breach has definitely taken place.
This means that if a doctor chooses to arrive at a diagnosis quickly even though the symptoms indicate the need to run tests and narrow the range of possible causes, there is a risk of providing less than standard care. Should it turn out that the patient is suffering from an ailment other than the one identified by the doctor, the possibility of a breach in the standard of care increases. When that incorrect diagnosis leads to serious or fatal consequences for the patient, a breach in the standard of care is absolutely present.
How Does a Breach Impact the Pursuit of a Medical Malpractice Claim?
The standard of care that the medical professional provided to the patient is at the core of the malpractice case. When there is evidence that the professional failed to make use of all available strategies for diagnosing and treating the individual, and that the negligence led to increased harm for that patient, malpractice is a valid claim.
As part of the documentation filed by the prosecuting attorney, information about the interactions between the medical professional and the patient will play a key role. This includes everything from the notes found in a patient’s file to the hospital charts that document the findings of other medical professionals who took over the treatment of the patient. Information about medications prescribed, outpatient procedures, surgical procedures, and physical therapy will all be addressed.
In the best-case scenario, the attorney is able to present enough evidence to indicate that the medical professional did not take the steps necessary to act in the best interests of the patient. Further, failing to take those steps has led to a loss in the quality of life for the patient, created a permanent or at least long-term health issue, and may leave the patient with the inability to earn a living or provide financially for the immediate family.
If there is any suspicion that a medical professional has not provided treatment that is considered reasonable and in line with local standards, seek the advice of a personal injury attorney at once. When there is evidence that the proper level of care was not given and the patient suffered as a result, there will definitely be grounds for filing a medical malpractice suit.