Tens of thousands of patients are affected by medical mistakes every year. Common problems include surgical errors, diagnostic mistakes, medical errors, and poor infection control. Most cases involve healthcare professionals breaching the standard of care they owe to their patients. But what is the standard of care? And where does medical malpractice fit in?
Defining the Standard of Care
We expect medical professionals to take care of us. It’s important to understand that there is an actual standard by which your treatment should proceed.
Simply defined, the standard of care is:
“The degree of care (watchfulness, attention, caution, and prudence) that a reasonable person should exercise under the circumstances.”
In the medical field, this principle directly affects your medical care.
Breaching the Standard of Care Means …
When does a medical mistake rise to the level of a breach? Healthcare professionals that fail to act in a reasonably prudent way could be breaching the standard of care for their patients. It’s often important to compare the behavior of similar professionals. For example, an oncologist might have a different standard of care than an obstetrician.
The Four Elements of Medical Malpractice
To prove a medical malpractice claim, you have to prove that:
- A standard of care existed. Did your healthcare professional owe you a standard of care?
- Someone breached the standard of care. Did medical providers fail to provide care that meets the standard of care?
- The patient suffered injuries. Were you injured in some way by someone breaching the standard of care?
- The patient incurred damages. Did you lose money or incur more significant expenses due to the breach?
Let’s consider this example: You’re in the hospital for minor surgery. Your chart clearly states that you are allergic to aspirin, but the doctor prescribes it anyway. The nurse gives you the aspirin, and you have an allergic reaction. So far, the hospital, doctor, and nurse have a standard of care toward you as the patient.
The doctor and nurse definitely breached the standard of care. The hospital might also have done so if staff used incorrect protocols in your care. Now, the next two elements of medical malpractice have to be met.
If you suffered a mild reaction, you might not be considered ‘injured.’ However, a severe anaphylactic shock could have placed your life in danger and aggravated other medical conditions.
The mild reaction might not have caused any damages. The severe reaction caused by the breach increased your medical treatment, prevented you from working (lost wages), caused long-lasting brain trauma, and endangered your life.
In either case, it’s best to discuss your situation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. What seems like a simple error might actually be a case of a medical professional breaching the standard of care.
Call if You Think You Might Need to Sue Your Doctor.
Being injured by someone you trusted to take care of you can be hard to handle. If you are interested in discussing a medical malpractice claim, be sure to call us for a free consultation.
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