What Is the Standard of Care?
In general terms, the standard of care is what an average health care provider with similar training and a reasonable amount of skill would do in a specific situation. This includes both the amount and type of care a patient should receive. For example, if a patient is misdiagnosed because a provider did not order a test that is considered routine for his symptoms, the provider may have been negligent. However, if the patient is misdiagnosed because routine tests did not catch key symptoms, the provider probably was not negligent even if more extensive testing would have resulted in the correct diagnosis.
Standard of Care and Best Practices
The key to understanding standard of care is to remember that it is a legal term, not a medical one. Many people confuse it with the idea of best practices, which are the ideal standard of treatment. However, standard of care is much more basic. It allows for physicians to make mistakes or provide a lower level of care, as long as it still falls within average levels.
The Difference Between Malpractice and Other Types of Negligence
The most common standard for negligence is based on the idea of what a reasonable person would have done in any given situation. However, since juries are not generally made up of other doctors, it can be difficult for them to determine what a reasonable medical professional would do. In addition, almost all medical procedures come with a risk of complications, so deciding whether it was reasonable can be difficult.
Instead, medical malpractice decisions are based on customary practices and whether the doctor followed them. This protects doctors from the risk of being successfully sued for normal complications, while still holding them accountable for true negligence.
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