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What does "standard of care" mean in medical malpractice cases?

Someone who gets sick or is injured while visiting New Orleans does not go to a doctor or hospital for treatment expecting to leave with a worsened medical condition. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of doctors and other health care professionals, patients' conditions sometimes worsen and may even result in patient's death.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other health care provider deviates from the standard of care expected of a medical professional acting under similar circumstances. Physicians are expected to provide treatment and care to their patients consistent with the level of care and skill expected of a doctor practicing in the same specialty.

Regardless of their area of specialization, all doctors licensed to practice medicine in Louisiana are expected to have at least basic skills and knowledge in treating common or general illnesses or injuries. For instance, a family practitioner examining a patient should be able to identify the telltale symptoms of a heart attack and possess the skills necessary to administer aid until the patient is transported to a hospital. The standard of care does not require that the family practitioner possess the knowledge and skills of a cardiologist.

When patients experience a worsened medical condition or death because doctors do not perform according to the standard of care expected of them, their actions might be medical malpractice.

Doctor errors might involve a failure to diagnose a patient's condition, a surgical error, misdiagnosis of an injury or ailment, or prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage.

Medical malpractice and the standard of care are complex areas of the law. This posting is offered only as an overview of this complex topic, and it should not be taken as legal advice.

If you suspect that you have been injured or a loved one has died as the result of negligence or mistakes on the part of a doctor or hospital, you should obtain legal advice and guidance from a medical malpractice attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Standard of Care: Treatment and Surgery," accessed on Dec.10, 2014

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