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When doctors breach the duty of care

When most people think about medical malpractice claims, they envision patients suing medical practitioners for causing harm during a medical or surgical procedure or treatment. Surgery is the second most common cause for medical malpractice claims, but it certainly is not the only reason patients may seek damages from medical providers. When healthcare practitioners breach their duty of care, patients have the option of filing a medical malpractice claim.

What is a duty of care?

Doctors, like other providers, have what the law labels a “duty of care.” When a physician agrees to treat a patient that has requested services, a legal duty of care is established. From that point forward, medical practitioners must decide if the care they provide is what any reasonable physician would provide under similar circumstances.

The courts consider what is known as a medical standard of care that assesses a doctor’s level of skill, expertise, and care administered to their patients. Doctors are expected to demonstrate competency under the following circumstances:

  • The scope of practice for their area of medical practice.
  • The accepted practices of other doctors with the same or similar medical expertise.
  • The level/quality of medical equipment and facilities available.

As you can probably imagine, doctors are held to incredibly high standards. They hold life and death in their hands when treating patients and it is a responsibility that must be taken seriously. If the duty of care is breached, patients have legal recourse. They can sue their doctors for lying with evidence supporting a breach of care. A personal injury lawyer experienced in medical malpractice can review your case and determine the next steps.

Ways doctors can breach their duty of care

How can patients be certain their doctors have breached their duty of care? Physicians and other healthcare practitioners have an obligation, to tell the truth about diagnoses, treatment options, and prognoses and to deliver acceptable levels of care.

Let’s take the example of a patient who visits their primary care physician with a complaint of abdominal pain. After a brief examination and without any imaging or other diagnostic testing, the doctor determines the person is suffering from constipation and prescribes stool softeners and laxatives to help. The patient later ends up in the emergency room of their local hospital with what turns out to be a bowel blockage. Failing to diagnose a health condition, including ordering medical tests to verify suspicions, can be a breach of duty of care, especially if the misdiagnosis leads to further injury to the patient.

Another example is a surgeon failing to disclose all the risks of a surgical procedure. If a neurosurgeon recommends brain surgery to correct a Chiari malformation, for instance, but fails to warn the patient the procedure could make their condition worse instead of better, that can be seen as a breach of duty of care. Medical practitioners must provide an honest account of all known risks of surgical procedures and other medical treatments before getting their patients to consent.

Holding doctors accountable

No one likes to think about suing their healthcare provider, but when doctors breach their duty of care, their patients can suffer further injury or illness – even death. Patients have a right to pursue personal injury claims when their physicians breach their duty of care. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer experienced in medical malpractice can help patients recover fair compensation for their injuries. Ron Archibeque has successfully litigated some of the largest personal injury claims in New Mexico. His extensive knowledge provides victims with the leverage needed to secure damages from healthcare practitioners who caused them harm. Call 505-750-2363 or contact us online to schedule your complimentary case consultation.