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What is the "standard of care?"

Everyone has probably heard about someone suing a doctor or hospital for medical malpractice. You have also probably been privy to or part of a conversation or argument over the merits of medical malpractice lawsuits. One side may argue that it discourages doctors from taking high-risk patients or specializing in high-risk fields because of their legal exposure. Others may argue that doctors have an inordinate amount of power over their patients and without some sort of external check there will be no standards. The answer to both of these points is, yes.

To solve this conundrum, doctors are held to a "standard of care." Historically, the standard of care was the average skill and knowledge of doctors in the area in which the doctor operated her practice. The modern trend is to hold doctors to a national standard. So the next question is: what is the national standard?

The "standard of care" is a collection of knowledge, recommendations and advice that is approved by the medical boards and widely accepted by the medical profession. This is how doctors know in what order to perform medical tests. It advises doctors on the proper use of medication, when surgery should be considered and how to inform patients of developments. The doctors are supposed to take this knowledge and apply it to each patient.

The national standard is set by the relevant medical boards. Doctors can also be held to multiple standards. For example, heart surgeons are held to the regular standard of general practitioners and the standard for heart surgeons. When a doctor, or their team, violates the standard of care, then a medical malpractice case has arisen. This standard allows patients to know when the care they received was sub-par or if the doctor really did all she could.

If you or a loved one believes that your doctor did not give you adequate care, then you may have a valid claim for medical malpractice. You may want to speak to an attorney who can help you review the medical logs and notes to determine if you received appropriate care.

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