How is the standard of care defined in medical malpractice suits?

The relationship between a patient and doctor depends on trust. As a recent article reminds us, doctors might examine the same patient but arrive at different diagnostic opinions and/or recommend different treatment protocols. What happens when multiple opinions are offered? Perhaps a patient may make decisions based on the trust he or she feels with a certain doctor. No wonder, then, that some patients may feel a betrayal in trust if their treatments result in serious injuries, illnesses or other consequences because of alleged medical negligence or mistakes.

As attorneys that focus on medical malpractice litigation, we know that jurors in a court of law may be asked to define the applicable standard of medical care before determining whether a doctor’s actions breached that duty. Yet when even medical experts may offer conflicting testimony in court, how can jurors reach a consensus?

There may be no single answer, as many attorneys agree that jury behavior can be unpredictable. Nevertheless, experienced attorneys understand that litigation strategy can greatly influence a jury’s decision. Opinions may differ, yet there may still be a consensus regarding a preferred treatment approach. We can investigate a claim and arrange for experts that will testify to the appropriate standard of care.

Yes, doctors must make judgment calls, but accepting responsibility for their mistakes or medical negligence is also a part of their job. For that reason, if a doctor disagreed with a previous provider’s care, the failure to act according to his or her own judgment might be interpreted as negligence. Similarly, if a medical treatment is not bringing the expected result, a doctor should take appropriate action. The exact actions may depend on a patient’s condition, but our website offers several examples of how we have helped patients who suffered injuries due to the negligence of hospital staff or doctors.

Source: The New York Times, “When the Influence of a Patient’s Former Doctor Lingers,” Abigail Zuger, June 8, 2015