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What Does Standard of Care Mean?

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February 13, 2017 | Medical Malpractice |


There is no definition for standard of care in medicine; it’s a term only used in law. Standard of care is a reasonable guideline of care that a patient should receive while being treated by a physician.

What Does Standard of Care Look Like?

Standard of care varies slightly based on the healthcare situation. Guidelines are established by all of the following:

  • Measuring and comparing the skills of an average physician in a relevant field
  • Medical knowledge
  • Traditional medical practices
  • How an average physician would provide the same care

These guidelines apply to individual physicians, clinics, formal diagnostic procedures, and specialists.

Who Establishes Standard of Care?

A medical malpractice attorney will need to review the facts of your case to establish where standard of care was breached. In a courtroom, a more concrete definition of standard of care is typically given by an expert medical witness.

Do Lawyers and Doctors See Standard of Care Differently?

The difference between the way doctors and lawyers look at standard of care depends on what they consider worthy of a standard.

Physicians typically believe a reasonable standard of care includes customary practices. Meanwhile, malpractice lawyers are more likely to think that care and practice are separate (although they may overlap). This difference is because medical malpractice is a field of personal injury law. Personal injury law has the reasonable person standard regarding negligence—in other words, if a reasonable person would have done something, then not doing it is negligent, and vice versa.

Doctors are cautious about using a reasonable standard. Physicians know there are always risks and complications with any procedure. By avoiding a reasonable standard, they’re avoiding an implication that complications were negligent.

Do Doctors Have to Be Perfect?

Medicine isn’t an exact science. There will always be risks or complications that aren’t the result of negligence. Keeping recovery expectations realistic is an important part of medicine, and ideal care doesn’t mean a full recovery.

In order for a case to be medical malpractice, a doctor must truly be negligent with your health. An experienced medical malpractice attorney should review your case in detail before moving forward with a lawsuit.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one are considering moving forward with a medical malpractice case, contact the Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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