The applicable standard of care in surgery and medical treatment

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

New York physicians are expected to provide a professional level of expertise, skill, and care when treating patients, and this level of care is referred to as the standard of care. The standards have been refined in more recent years as national exams and certifications have become more available. In times past, leniency in standards was permissible for those in more rural settings, but today, the same standards are in most cases applied throughout the nation.

Standard of care can become an issue in a situation resulting in medical malpractice litigation for surgical errors or other adverse situations arising out of medical treatment or surgery. This standard is used to determine whether a physician has adhered to or deviated from established guidelines. If it can be demonstrated that a medical professional has deviated from the standard, judgement could be rendered on behalf of a injured plaintiff bringing a malpractice claim.

In compiling a medical malpractice case, lawyers on either side of the issue might deal with challenges relating to the specialization or general training of a physician. All general practitioners, for example, should have a basic level of training for certain procedures, meaning that poor performance of such procedures cannot be excused by a lack of specialization. However, specialized skills cannot be expected of a general practitioner. Additional issues that can complicate a medical malpractice case include the common issue of physicians being unwilling to testify against their colleagues.

An adverse result alone is not necessarily an indication of medical malpractice, but it may warrant further investigation. Issues such as inconsistent explanations for an outcome may provide an individual with enough concern to prompt a discussion with another medical provider or with a medical malpractice lawyer. Issues such as wrong-site surgeries, however, are more obvious examples of not meeting a standard of care. In such a situation, a medical malpractice lawyer can help to determine the appropriate course of action to take.

Source: FindLaw, “Standard of Care: Treatment and Surgery”, accessed on Feb. 18, 2015

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