Doctors must have extensive education and years of training before they can practice on their own. This intensive preparation fosters trust in physicians, prepares them for the responsibility of medical care, and establishes high expectations for them. While we believe doctors can prescribe and deliver the best treatment, human error is always possible. However, there are legal standards of care these professionals must uphold, and those values can help patients see how their doctors measure up
Reasonable Standard of Medical Care
A doctor must provide a reasonable standard of care to all his or her patients. However, what constitutes “standard” is constantly evolving. It once meant doing only what was customary or typically done. In the 20th century, the definition changed to “That which is customarily done plus anything that seems reasonable even if not typically done.” Today, a reasonable standard of care is defined as the level of care that could be expected from another competent physician under similar circumstances.
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) outline standards of care. Specific administration guidelines govern the way physicians run their practices, from general practitioners to specialists in such narrow fields as neurosurgery. Whether a doctor adheres to or ignores these guidelines will help determine whether medical malpractice has occurred. It is important to note, however, that there is currently no set standard defining how CPGs ought to be used by the courts. Thus, failure to adhere to the guidelines may not be enough on its own to warrant a claim of malpractice.
Even without these guidelines, your physicians should practice these minimum standards of care:
- Reporting abnormal medical test results. Doctors should read test results and inform you if they are abnormal. Failing to do so may lead to a worsening of conditions or death.
- Necessary medical treatments only. Your doctor should not prescribe unneeded medications or perform unnecessary tests. A doctor should prescribe reasonable tests in light of your specific symptoms and medical history to form a diagnosis. You should never undergo pointless surgery. Unwarranted medical testing or treatment can be dangerous for the patient and expensive.
- Correct discharge. Your doctor should not allow you to be prematurely discharged from care. If a physician releases you before your problem is completely resolved, you risk possible complications – even death.
- Adequate aftercare. Doctors should follow up with you about your conditions as part of aftercare. Sufficient aftercare makes for better recovery and can detect complications early. For example, patients who have hip surgery should be referred to a physical therapist for rehabilitation. If a doctor does not make the referral, it can lengthen recovery time or cause complications.
Medical Malpractice in West Virginia
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional causes an injury to a patient either through omission or a negligent act. These conditions must be present before you can file a medical malpractice claim:
- The standard of care was violated by negligence.
- That negligence caused an injury.
- The injury resulted in significant damages.
It is estimated that, per year, there are 12 medical malpractice claims filed per 100 patients. Some examples of medical malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis of symptoms
- Disregarding or misreading lab results
- Unnecessary or wrong-site surgery
- Improper administration of medication
- Discharging a patient too soon
- Not providing sufficient aftercare
Doctors have a responsibility to provide adequate care for their patients. In West Virginia, the law states that citizens “are entitled to the best medical care and facilities available.” Poor treatment can impact your physical and mental wellbeing and lead to needless costs. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, we understand medical malpractice is traumatic. Let us help you. Get started by contacting our office today for more information.