Standard of Care and the points of Negligence

Physicians, medical assistants, and all health care providers have the responsibility and duty to perform within their scope of training and to always do what any reasonable and prudent health care professional in the same specialty or general field of practice would do. That is what is expected of every physician when a contact is made by a patient. Failure to do what any reasonable and prudent health care professional would do in the same set of circumstances can be seen as a breach of the standard of care. Negligence is defined as the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances. The negligence occurs when someone suffers injury because of another's failure to live up to a required duty of care and is a primary cause of malpractice suits. Malpractice is professional negligence. The four elements of negligence, sometimes called the 4 Ds, are:    

a) Duty: duty of care    
b) Derelict: breach of the duty of care    
c) Direct cause: a legally recognizable injury occurs as a result of the breach of duty of care    
d) Damage: wrongful activity must have caused the injury or harm that occurred    

If an individual has knowledge, skill, or intelligence superior to that of a layperson, that individual's conduct must be consistent with that status. Medical assistants are held to a high standard of care by virtue of their skills, knowledge, and intelligence. As professionals, medical assistants are required to have a standard minimum level of special knowledge and ability. This is what is known as duty of care.    

Physicians and members of their staff may be called to testify in court to the standard of care. In such a case, they are usually considered expert witnesses. An expert witness is one who has knowledge and experience enough in a field to be able to testify to what is the reasonable and expected standard of care. Expert witnesses are expected to tell what they know to be fact and are best counseled to use lay terms rather than complicated medical language. The goal is for jurors and judges to understand the nature of any medical information shared. Visual aids, charts, and computer simulations are often used to illustrate or clarify testimony given by expert witnesses.