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'Standard of care:' How doctors must treat their patients

In the eyes of the law, doctors are expected to provide patients with a certain standard of care. The type of treatment they're expected to provide patients is intended to be consistent across doctor's working in the same community, under the same set of circumstances and with the same degree of expertise or skill.

If a doctor failed to order diagnostic testing of a patient presenting with certain symptoms in a situation in which a similarly trained doctor would have, then he or she may not have provided the patient with a standard level of care. When a patient's condition worsens or he or she dies, this is one of the reasons cited for filing a medical malpractice case.

Standards of care vary between general physicians and specialists. All doctors are expected to be able to diagnose some of the more common or chronic injuries or illnesses. They, however, aren't all expected to have specialized expertise in any one field.

Only those physicians actually working as specialists are expected to have both an ability to diagnose common illnesses and unique medical ailments that are inherent to certain fields of medicine.

With general practitioners (GPs), it's commonplace for one GP to have the exact same ability to diagnose a rudimentary medical condition as any other GP in the country would be able to do.

In the case of specialists though, the locality rule applies when comparing the differences in quality of care they can provide. A rural physician, for example, cannot be expected to have the same cutting edge technology necessary to diagnose or treat specialized symptoms in the same way that larger city physicians might.

Those working in medicine tend to not like to critique their fellow physicians and the standard of care they've been accused of providing or not providing in certain situations. This can make it difficult to find witnesses to come to court and testify whether the actions a doctor took were consistent with a normal standard of care.

There are physicians though that are consistently publishing reports on topics within their area of expertise that are willing to serve as experts in these types of cases.

If your delayed or inaccurate diagnosis resulted in a worsening of your medical condition, then a Los Lunas medical malpractice attorney can advise you of your rights to file a lawsuit in your case.

Source: FindLaw, "Standard of care: Treatment and surgery," accessed Oct. 27, 2017

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