One of the critical elements of a medical malpractice case is whether the practitioner’s treatment was within the medical standard of care. “Medical standard of care” is typically defined as the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional, with a similar background and in the same medical community, would have provided under the circumstances that led to the alleged malpractice. In a lawsuit, expert medical witnesses are called to testify about the required standard of care, and whether the defendant in the case deviated from that standard. Most states require malpractice expert witnesses to be in the same or similar medical field as the defendant.
During the depositions, several of the experts pointed out Dr. P’s careful and detailed notes, and the fact that she’d both given a written copy of the agreement to the patient as well as discussing it verbally. The experts noted this was evidence that Dr. P was complying with the standard of care owed to the patient. It was clear from the evidence that Dr. P had not been informed about the patient’s drug-seeking behavior, or the letter from the insurance company. Had she been in possession of that information, the outcome for both the patient and the practitioners might have been different.
Although Dr. P couldn’t protect herself from being sued, she could, and did, protect herself from liability by taking detailed notes, following protocol, documenting lab results, and explaining her conclusions. The referring practitioners were at fault for not sharing vital information that they had which might have altered how Dr. P treated the patient. Their failure to openly communicate and make Dr. P aware of the full facts of the patient’s case ultimately deprived the physician of making the best choices for the patient, and deprived the patient of getting real help. Whether you are the one making the referral, or the one receiving it, knowledge is power and information is critical.