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Malpractice claims: The role of “standard of care”

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Medical Malpractice Defense

Doctors typically provide the best care possible for their patients. Because of this, it’s often a shock when a patient comes forward with a medical malpractice claim against a doctor. At that point, it’s up to the doctor to determine the most effective way to defend themselves against that claim.

One option that some doctors use is the claim that they met or exceeded the standard of care that would be expected under the circumstances of the case. If they can prove that, it may be much more difficult for the complainant to successfully claim medical malpractice.

Standard of care defined

The standard of care refers to the level and type of care that a reasonably competent healthcare professional, with a similar background and in a similar medical community, would provide under similar circumstances. Establishing this standard helps determine whether a healthcare provider acted negligently. This defense hinges on demonstrating that the provider followed accepted medical practices, even if the outcome was not favorable.

Experts to aid the defense

Experts in the same field as the defendant provide opinions on what constitutes appropriate care under the circumstances. Their testimony helps the court understand complex medical issues and the expected practices within that specialty. A successful defense often relies on convincing expert witnesses who can show that the defendant’s actions were consistent with professional norms.

Comparing actions to acceptable practices

To mount a defense based on the standard of care, the defense must show that the medical provider’s decisions and actions were within the range of accepted medical practices. This comparison involves detailed analysis and documentation, including patient records, treatment protocols and adherence to medical guidelines.

If a doctor can prove that their actions were reasonable and within the standard of care, it significantly weakens a plaintiff’s case. Demonstrating compliance with established protocols can illustrate that a negative outcome wasn’t due to negligence but rather an unfortunate but unavoidable challenge related to a patient’s medical treatment.