What is duty of care and standard of care?

Doctors have specific duties that they must perform and standards that they should meet. In the absence of these, patients can suffer considerable harm. There are a few misconceptions and everyone should take a few minutes to gain an understanding about these important factors.

Not only can knowing what is expected help ensure your medical care is up to par, it can provide valuable information about your rights if you are the victim of medical malpractice.

When does a physician owe a duty to someone?

Typically, the only time that a doctor owes a duty to someone is once that person is established as a patient of the practitioner. Even though many people think that physicians should always help people, they don't have a duty to be a hero if they are out to dinner and someone chokes or if they are at a ballpark and someone is struck by a ball. Instead, they only have the duty of caring for their patients.

There are a few different types of duties that the physician might have. An important one is to notify their patients about the potential impacts of medications. For example, a doctor might be held liable for the effects of a car crash if he or she prescribed a narcotic to someone, didn't tell that person it might cause drowsiness, and that the person should avoid operating vehicles and machinery.

They also have a duty to inform patients about the possible risks of surgeries and procedures so that patients can decide if they are willing to take that risk. All applicable information has to be passed to patients, and it must be clearly documented in their records.

What is a standard of care?

This has to do with the level of care that the patient should expect to receive. The doctor's training, the information available and the facility limitations are all factors. Some doctors have received specialty training. Cardiovascular surgeons, neonatologists and oncologists are a few of these specialists.

You would expect them to have more knowledge and be able to construct a more sophisticated treatment plan for something that falls under their specialty than what a general practitioner could formulate. You should believe that a doctor at a cutting edge medical hospital is able to provide a higher level of care than a rural doctor who doesn't have access to the tools and equipment of the more technologically advanced hospital.

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