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What is the standard of care?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2023 | blog, Medical Malpractice

When seeking medical care, we place our trust in healthcare professionals to provide the best possible treatment. However, there are instances when medical negligence or malpractice occurs, leading to harm or injury.

The New York State Unified Court System states the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two years and six months from the date of the incident or end of treatment. Due to this time limit, you must work quickly to develop your case, which means ensuring you can prove all aspects of medical malpractice. To establish your case, you must understand the concept of the standard of care.

The definition

The standard of care in the context of medical malpractice refers to the level of care, skill and diligence that a reasonable healthcare provider exercises under similar circumstances. It is a benchmark that determines whether a healthcare professional’s actions were within the norms of their field and whether they met the expected standards of competence and care. If a healthcare provider’s actions fall below this standard, it may qualify as medical malpractice.

Components of the standard of care

The standard of care is not a rigid set of rules but rather customary practices within the medical community. It considers what other healthcare providers with similar training and expertise would do when facing a similar medical situation. It comes down to comparing the actions of the accused healthcare provider to those of their peers.

It is also dependent on geographic location and the facility in which the treatment occurs. What is the standard care in a large urban hospital may differ from that in a small rural clinic. Considerations include local resources, available technology and the level of expertise in a particular area.

Part of the standard of care also involves obtaining informed consent from the patient. Healthcare providers should explain the risks, benefits and alternatives of a proposed treatment or procedure, enabling patients to make a decision based on the facts and options. Failing to do so can breach the standard of care.

It also extends to the entire treatment process. Healthcare providers must continuously assess a patient’s condition, modify the treatment plan as needed and communicate effectively with the patient and their family.

Proper documentation of a patient’s medical history, treatment plan and any complications or deviations from the standard of care is essential. Accurate and detailed records help to establish whether the healthcare provider met the standard of care.

The standard of care is not inflexible. Medical practices evolve, and what is the standard care today may not be the same in the future. The key is to assess the healthcare provider’s actions at the time of the treatment.


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