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Why is the standard of care so important in med mal cases?

Many residents of the Granite City, Illinois, area have probably heard the phrase standard of care, particularly if they have been around people who work in the medical profession.

In addition to being a medical term, the standard of care is also an important legal concept because it helps determine whether a doctor was negligent in providing medical care and, thus, liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Basically, the standard of care refers to the way in which average to good doctors, with similar skills and in a community with similar resources and equipment, would choose to handle a given set of circumstances. Because medicine is part art and part science, it is important to remember that there is rarely one correct way to treat a patient. Moreover, there is no one resource where a person can go and definitively look up the standard of care.

To give an example, a typical doctor in a community might choose to do option A, B, or C when treating a patient for a condition. Any one of these three options is within the standard of care that prevails in that doctor's community and with that doctor's knowledge and skill. Even if a patient has a bad outcome, the doctor will not be found negligent for exercising any of these options correctly.

If the doctor does option X, on the other hand, he or she could be accountable for his or her patient's injuries.

Establishing the standard of care in medical malpractice case requires the collaboration of an experienced medical expert who can reliably testify as to what the standard of care is in a given situation, since the standard of care can vary somewhat based on the circumstances. This process is often best accomplished with the help of a medical malpractice attorney.

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