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Medical malpractice defense: what is standard of care? P.1

Medical professionals can and do make mistakes from times to time. Medical errors don’t always lead to harm for a patient—in many cases medical errors have no significant or permanent consequences. In some cases, they do. Ideally, a medical professional who makes a mistake, and his or her employer, are able to resolve any such incidents without going to court, but sometimes it is necessary to mount a strong defense in court.

In any medical malpractice case, it is critical for the medical professional to clearly establish the applicable standard of care. This term refers to the course of action that would have been taken by a reasonable physician with the same training under the same circumstances. The standard of care depends on whether a physician is a specialist or a non-specialist. 

Michigan law specifies that, for a general practitioner—a non-specialist—a medical malpractice plaintiff is required to show that the physician failed to acted according to the recognized standard of care in the community where the physician practices or in a similar community. So, for general practitioners, the standard of care is determined locally.

If the defending physician is a specialist, the plaintiff is required to show that he or she failed to act according to the recognized standard of care within that particular specialty. Although the specialist standard of care is a national standard, it must still be applied locally, in light of the facilities reasonably available under the circumstances.

For a physician who is accused of malpractice, it is critical to work with an experienced attorney who can help them to not only identify the appropriate standard of care, but also to build a convincing case for the court. We’ll say more about standard of care, and how an experienced attorney can help an accused physician build the best possible case.

Source: MCL 600.2912a(1)(a)

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