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Standard of Care

Posted on:9/12/2012
A health-care practitioner must exercise the same degree of care and skill that an average practitioner would in similar circumstances.


A health-care practitioner must exercise the same degree of care and skill that an average practitioner would in similar circumstances. The operative words in defining that [average] practitioner speak to [reasonable and prudent] practice, although some courts have considered that connotation to be more stringent than that of [customary care and skill.] Nevertheless, in practice the standard of care (and its possible breach) is opined by experts testifying for the plaintiff and defense who must bring their own figurative yardsticks to bear on the task of defining standard practices to the court. Thus, there is no universally agreed-on, uniform set of standards.

 

Each expert must rely on his or her observations and knowledge of reasonable and expected clinical practices, prior court decisions establishing breaches of care, his or her own prior participation in malpractice actions that led to settlements prior to and in lieu of trial, and so on, to establish a convincing set of standards. Experts, however, are fallible and may, perhaps due to the self-aggrandizement involved in being an [expert,] state ideal or optimal expectations as reasonable.

 

The duty to protect a patient is clearest when a patient is hospitalized. Indeed, evaluated acute risk for self-harm is one of the most common reasons for the hospitalization of a patient. The hospital setting is assumed to provide the maximum opportunity to monitor and safeguard a patient from self-destructive urges, to provide sanctuary from external sources of stress, to offer multiple hours of therapeutic interventions through different modalities (individual, group, and family therapy; milieu therapy; art therapy; etc.), to titrate pharmacological treatments to stabilize the patient's mood, thinking, and behavior, and so on.


  
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