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How does standard of care relate to medical malpractice cases?

If a New York resident suspects they have left a hospital with a worsened condition than what they went into the hospital with, they may find that they have become the victims of medical malpractice. A medical malpractice suit means that a medical professional did not treat their patients with the standard of care owed to them. But it might not be clear to the victim what the term "standard of care" means. Understanding what the standard of care is can go a long way in educating one about what to expect from a medical professional.

The standard of care that is owed to a patient by a medical professional refers to the level of care, skill and expertise that is to be possessed by physicians in a similar community and acting under similar circumstances. What does this mean? It means that if a doctor did not behave in the way that is expected of someone acting in his or her field, that doctor can be held liable for any harm caused. Holding someone to a standard of care means that doctors are expected to act in a way consistent with the expectations of the medical community.

There is a caveat of general or specialized knowledge. For example, a general physician will be expected to have a basic skill and knowledge of treating general or recurring illnesses, and a specialist cannot argue that the general physician should have done what the specialist would have done. Additionally, under the locality rule, a specialist in a private practice in a small town cannot be held to the same standard of care as a specialist in a university teaching hospital with the latest technology.

Even where it might be clear that someone has breached the standard of care owed to a patient, it might be difficult to get one medical professional to testify against another -- the threat of medical malpractice often causes the medical community to close ranks. But an experienced attorney knows various strategies to get the ball rolling to get doctors to come forward.

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