What is the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice? | Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.
patient standard of care

What is the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice?

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

Everyone has a standard of care. Every individual has to show a reasonable amount of care as they go through life to ensure they avoid harming others. The standard of care we each must meet changes from person to person. Someone who works in construction has a different standard of care from someone who only has to work in the office. In most instances, the former has to meet a higher standard of care than the latter. This isn’t true when they’re not working. If they’re both in the supermarket, for instance, they have the same standard of care as long as they’re performing similar tasks.

This means that your standard of care also depends on the context of the environment and not only on your responsibilities. It can be a mix of the two, but when you’re a healthcare professional, particularly a doctor, the standard of care you have to meet is much higher, specifically for their patients.

The standard of care for a healthcare professional plays a significant role in determining whether or not you have a medical malpractice case. If you’re unsure of whether or not your doctor fulfilled their duty of care to you, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. for more information.

What is a Healthcare Professionals Standard of Care?

When a doctor takes someone on as a patient, their standard of care becomes a duty. They must do whatever’s within their power to help someone heal unless they are a danger to the doctor or others. This doesn’t mean a doctor should be punished for not saving someone whose injuries and/or condition made them difficult to heal.

Rather, this means that doctors and other healthcare professionals are under greater scrutiny and attention. They have far more opportunities to fail in their duty of care and will be caught doing so.

Other professions in other industries do not have this. Even law enforcement technically does not have an obligation to protect people while working, but medical doctors have to do no harm.

How is a Healthcare Professional’s Standard Determined?

A healthcare professional’s standard of care is established by comparing their treatment to others with similar training and circumstances in similar situations. This inadvertently also holds specialists to higher standards than typical practitioners.

There are certain symptoms that every ER doctor is expected to recognize. If they don’t, they can be found negligent because other ER doctors would have. At the same time, they wouldn’t be expected to recognize every symptom of a brain injury that a neurosurgeon is expected to diagnose.

How is Someone’s Standard of Care Established?

Even though healthcare professionals and healthcare providers have a higher standard of care than others, not every single healthcare professional’s standard is the same. The question becomes how is one’s standard established so you can determine if you have a medical malpractice case? Five things need to be determined to find out.

  • The duty the individual or entity owed to you before your treatment. Not every patient’s circumstances are the same. Someone with a cold is owed the same consideration as someone with cancer or in need of surgery.
  • The likelihood that you would be harmed before your treatment. This takes into account your or a loved one’s well-being before being taken on as a patient. If you were on death’s door and their surgery saved your life but left you an amputee, it’s arguable that they met their standard of care. Healthcare professionals are not miracle workers and are expected to do their best in a given circumstance.
  • The impact of the harm that has been done to you. Each treatment and surgery has a margin of error and some expected risks. Your healthcare professional has to make you aware of them before undergoing the treatment. If the harm done to you or the side effects exceed what you were warned about, this plays a big part in proving whether or not they met their standard of care.
  • The cost the healthcare professional(s) would have or do incur to prevent harm. Medical bills are so expensive because hospitals have to spend a lot of money to get the healthcare professionals, technology, and resources needed to treat people. Despite saying that, the cost another person in another profession would incur is not completely relatable to a healthcare professional.
  • The difficulty in preventing the harm that came to you. If your or a loved one’s injuries or conditions were so extensive that there were always going to be extensive consequences, then it might be difficult to prove a healthcare professional failed in their duty of care.

After thorough research and investigation by one of our medical malpractice attorneys, we can establish answers to these questions. Based on our findings, we can explain whether or not we believe you have a case and how strong it is.

What Should You Do If Your Healthcare Professional Fails in Their Duty of Care?

You go to your doctor because you trust them to help treat or lessen your condition or injury. When they accept you as their patient, they have taken on a duty of care and need to work to meet it. If after everything is said and done, you’re not better than you were before, or as healthy as you should be, you’ll likely ask, “Did they meet their duty?”

You can find out from the medical malpractice attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. We can help you understand the legal specifics of your situation and whether or not they met their standard of care for you. Don’t wait. Contact us today for help.

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., a shareholder and managing partner at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., brings 37 years of litigation experience. He is a renowned trial lawyer in Pennsylvania, specializing in medical malpractice, personal injury, and criminal defense. Peter's notable achievements include securing multi-million-dollar verdicts and serving as District Attorney and Judge. He is committed to community involvement and is actively engaged in various legal associations.
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