Bringing Clarity to the Concept of “Standard of Care” in Medical Malpractice Claims
In Medical Malpractice Lawsuits, It Is Essential to Establish that Healthcare Professionals Adhere to The Standard Of Care Relevant to Their Specialty, and That a Deviation from this Standard Led to Your Injuries.
In medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, the plaintiff must prove that a medical provider has the same skills and proficiency to treat a patient, using the same care that other professionals in their area of expertise would use. An example of this concept is the possibility that a general practitioner performed plastic surgery after attending a 60-hour training on the procedures but was not an actual surgeon. The GP’s standard of care would be far below that of a plastic surgeon who participated in years of education in that field. Additionally, if a specialist’s treatment falls below the standard of care established in their field, it could be seen as not providing an expected standard of care. For example, suppose a cardiologist doesn’t order an EKG for a suspected heart attack patient. In that case, that is something cardiologists would see as unacceptable treatment.
The Correlation Between Standard of Care and Negligence
Medical malpractice is a category under the umbrella of negligence. Some cases of negligence do not qualify as medical malpractice, but all instances of medical malpractice are at least partially due to a healthcare provider’s failure. Negligence is directly related to the lack of caution imposed by a healthcare worker that is expected for their profession. It is a mistake, such as improper prescribing or administering medication, leaving instruments or gauze inside a surgical incision, or failure to perform adequate tests. These actions are not based on the caregiver’s knowledge but rather on their lack of caution and failure to provide the same standard of care expected by other professionals in their field.
Grasping the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Claims
When applying it to medical malpractice, the standard of care is a fluid expectation because it varies according to the caregiver being evaluated. The standard of care required of a general practitioner is not the same as that of a neurosurgeon. To prove malpractice in Pennsylvania, one must prove the expected standard of care and how the medical professional breached that standard.
Any licensed doctor is expected to have general skills and proficiencies when diagnosing or treating common ailments and injuries. Failure to properly administer CPR, for example, would be an unacceptable level of care even for a medical student, let alone a doctor. There are four factors needed to prove medical malpractice in Pennsylvania. The medical professional owed a duty of care, and it was breached. That breach caused harm to the patient, which caused injuries and damages. Also considered are the doctor’s knowledge of medicine, their skills in relationship to the majority of others in their field, the practices applied were medically acceptable, and if they acted in a reasonable manner.
Significance of Expert Insight to Determine the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Trials
Medical malpractice lawsuits rely on a certificate of merit, a testimony by qualified medical professionals about the standard of care expected in a given situation and whether that care was breached. They offer a professional opinion of what the appropriate standard of care is and how a divergence from that standard resulted in harm to the patient.
A required element in a medical malpractice lawsuit is the Certificate of Merit, adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January 2003 to stave the filing of frivolous malpractice complaints. The Certificate of Merit must be filed with the complaint or 60 days after the complaint has been filed. It ensures that a licensed professional provides a written statement proposing that the patient’s treatment was below standard care limits and was, therefore, harmed by substandard care.
At trial, an expert witness can speak on the standard of care, the reason for the injury, whether it could have been avoided, and alternative treatments that were not pursued. The expert witness must be in the same field or specialty as the defendant. One would not expect a cardiologist to testify in a nephrology case. That being said, if the standard of care was regarding a general practitioner, any doctor familiar with that practice, whether they are specialists or not, could testify.
Outlining “Never Events” in the Realm of Medical Malpractice in PA
A “never event” is used in the medical field to describe practices that should never occur when treating a patient because they almost always cause severe harm or death. There are six categories of these events. Surgical events such as operating on the wrong body part, performing the incorrect procedure, or leaving instruments in the body are the first. Contaminated medical devices or misusing medical equipment are product and device events. Patient protection events such as suicides and self-harm within a hospital should never occur. Care management events are the most common, including blood transfusions of the wrong blood type, medication dosage mistakes, and allergies to medications that were ignored. Criminal events such as impersonating medical staff, harming or neglecting a patient willfully, patient abuse, and assault in a medical setting are in this most violent category.
Standard of Care in Personal Injury Cases Compared to Medical Malpractice
In personal injury cases, the standard of care and focus on a possible breach of that care is much broader than for medical malpractice. A personal injury case focuses on what an ordinary person would do or expect in a given situation. The actions in a medical malpractice setting are under a different level of scrutiny and based on expert witnesses in the medical field.
Extracting Valuable Lessons from Ditch v. Waynesboro Hospital
Wanda Ditch filed a negligence lawsuit against Waynesboro Hospital, where her mother was being transported from one section of the hospital to another and fell from her bed. Ditch complained that her mother had just suffered a stroke, and her fall occurred because the hospital didn’t show the proper duty of care.
The original claim was that she was filing a “professional negligence” suit stating that hospital employees improperly transported the patient in a way that caused the accident. The court disagreed, claiming it was a malpractice suit, and as she had not provided a certificate of merit within the legal timeframes, her case was dismissed. She appealed her case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and was unsuccessful.
If You Have Questions Regarding the Standard of Care in A Medical Malpractice Case, Talk to an Experienced Bensalem Attorney Today
The laws regarding malpractice suits are tricky if you don’t know what you are doing. Our attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable in the field of malpractice suits. We understand how difficult it can be to have injuries caused by someone who was supposed to help you to heal. We will collect evidence about the injuries you have sustained, copy your medical records, and go over your medical costs. We will conduct research regarding the health specialist or health facility that is the subject of your suit to identify possible previous actions that will bolster your claim. Getting an expert medical opinion is an important part of your case, and we will prepare all witnesses. We know how to connect all aspects of your case and lead them to a final conclusion: that you have incurred financial hardship, past and possibly future income, and pain and suffering because of a health worker’s substandard care, and you deserve to be made whole.
Cohen & Riechelson has served our clients for over 50 years in Jenkintown, Levittown, Bucks County, Bensalem, Croydon, Doylestown, Northeast Philadelphia, and throughout Pennsylvania. To discuss your potential claim for medical malpractice, call us at (215) 337-4915 or contact us online. Our knowledge of the law and deep concern for our clients are two of our greatest assets. Let us work for you.