Standard of care: A trap for the unwary?

By Brian G. McConaty, Esq.

When physicians use or adopt the term “standard of care” in the context of a medical negligence case, they unwittingly play into the hands of the plaintiff’s attorney and undermine the defense. Unfortunately, the singular grammatical nature of “standard of care” implies that only one way to approach a medical problem exists, which is usually not the case. Use and adoption of this term sets a very high and unrealistic bar for physician conduct and does not adequately describe the concept of negligence.

Medical liability lawsuits are typically based on the premise that the physician was negligent. Negligence is typically defined as the failure by the physician to have acted in a prospectively reasonable way. In other words, a physician is negligent when he or she does something that no reasonable physician would do or fails to do something that all reasonable physicians would do under similar circumstances at the time in question and when viewed prospectively.

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