We hear stories about nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and others who go “above and beyond” for their patients. And we’re right to praise those efforts. However, in medical malpractice, the question of “Why didn’t they do more?” isn’t enough to prove negligence. We can’t look at what above-and-beyond efforts might have led to a better result for your health. Rather, we have to look at what another, reasonable doctor, nurse, EMT, or other medical professional would have done in the same circumstances. Healthcare providers, including institutions like hospitals, doctor’s offices, and clinics, must follow strict rules and policies that, along with years of education and training, result in industry standards regarding the care of patients. This is known, medically and legally, as the standard of care.
The Journal of Legal Medicine says the standard of care is “…not a guideline or list of options; instead, it is a duty determined by a given set of circumstances that present in a particular patient, with a specific condition, at a definite time and place.” In other words, standard of care is determined by what another reasonable person would have done, knowing what your healthcare provider knew, in the exact same circumstances. Not providing that reasonable standard of healthcare is what can result in medical malpractice. There are 4 legal requirements of medical malpractice, of which a breach in the standard of care is one.
You can think of standard of care as having two parts, (1) the actual decisions doctors and nurses and hospitals make, and (2) their documentation of your health and their decisions. The American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics says that medical documentation provides healthcare workers such as a doctor “a record of a patient’s history and other details that he or she might not otherwise remember between visits.” If your medical provider, like your doctor or nurse, didn’t write down your symptoms, allergies, medical history, vaccination records, or previous treatments properly, they kept the people who treated and cared for you later from making the best decisions for you. All of these details, if documented correctly, could have provided insight into the truth of your condition, issues with your diagnosis, or otherwise avoided the injury or harm you suffered due to the negligence. This remains true even if the person who later treated you was the same person. A single doctor cannot be expected to accurately remember all of the symptoms, for example, that all of their patients are experiencing. By not writing down those symptoms, they kept vital information from themselves and from your other caregivers. Simply put, if they didn’t document your condition thoroughly, they didn’t uphold the standard of care.
As a former critical care nurse, I saw how the standard of care helped my patients recover, and I could trust they would be cared for properly even when I was not on shift. But I’ve also seen what can happen when the standard of care is not followed. And as a litigator with 27 years of experience, I know how devastating these breaches can be to both patients and their families long term.
Many of my clients come to me because they know I’m a registered nurse. In medical malpractice cases, especially, they know they can trust me to listen to their story, look at their medical records, and immediately understand what the standard of care was for their situation and how that wasn’t met. If you aren’t sure if medical malpractice occurred, call my office to set up a free consultation with me. Bring all the medical documents you have, and together, I’ll be able to tell you whether anyone caring for you did not meet the standard of care, and if your situation meets the 4 legal requirements for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
In most cases where the harm or death occurred to an adult, you must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of the incident. For cases where a child is the victim, you may have more time depending on the child’s age. Regardless, time is of the essence. You should not have to suffer the ill effects of a medical provider’s negligence. Call my office today to set up your free consultation about your medical malpractice case.