Medical malpractice occurs when a patient comes to harm as a result of the irresponsible behavior of a doctor. The physician may do something inappropriate or fail to do something necessary. The malpractice may be intentional or unintentional. Regardless, the patient has the right to pursue legal damages to compensate for the harm suffered at the doctor’s hands.

It can be difficult to determine whether a physician’s behavior amounted to malpractice. A poor outcome for the patient doesn’t necessarily mean that the doctor did something wrong. The standard of care is a legal benchmark used to determine whether the physician’s actions were appropriate or not. If not, it is considered a breach of the standard of care, and the doctor may be liable for malpractice.

What Is the Standard of Care?

When a physician treats patients, he or she owes a duty of care to that patient. The standard of care is the caution and prudence that a doctor is expected to exercise in fulfilling that duty of care. To determine whether a breach in the standard of care took place, the physician’s decisions in treating the patient are compared to what a reasonably competent physician would have done in the same situation. The potentially liable doctor is compared to peers in his or her same practice and geographical area, not the leading physicians in the field.

How Is It Determined That a Breach Took Place?

There is not really a universal standard of care. It varies based on factors such as the condition of the individual patient and the geographic area where the treatment takes place. Treatment that may be inappropriate for one patient may be acceptable for another.

Therefore, it is difficult to make sweeping generalizations about which behaviors constitute malpractice and which do not. If a malpractice suit goes to trial, however, the jury may be asked to consider whether the physician should have been able to anticipate harm to the patient and whether he or she did everything possible to minimize the risk. If the jury decides that the doctor should have anticipated harm to the patient but didn’t, or if the physician recognized the risk but did not do enough to decrease it, the doctor can be held liable for malpractice.

If you are in need of a consultation to better understand your legal actions with your particular situation, contacting a medical malpractice lawyer could be your next step to bringing clarity to your circumstance. A professional could help you determine whether you came to harm as the result of a breach in the standard of care by a physician.