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Understanding the doctor's duty of care


Oregonians who have been injured while in the care of a medical professional may want to file a lawsuit against those who harmed him or her. Yet, they may be unclear as to what must be shown in order to succeed on such a claim. Though there are many issues with which to contend, one of the most important is establishing, defining, and showing a breach of a doctor's duty of care.

So what is the duty of care with regards to a doctor? A doctor owes his or her patients a duty of care, including treatment, that is in accordance with the diligence, care, and skill held by or expected from other reasonably competent doctors in the same or similar situation. This duty arises when a doctor voluntarily renders aid to a patient, typically in a hospital setting.

One of the difficulties in this area of law is establishing what degree of skill and care is applicable to the circumstances. In other words, what is the minimum standard of care a doctor can render to a patient that is okay? Usually, the judge or jury must consider where the doctor practices, customary practices and approaches of other doctors in the area, and the available equipment in that area at the time. Additionally, in many cases, expert witnesses are utilized to establish the requisite skill and expertise under such a situation. These expert witnesses must have a similar background as the alleged negligent doctor, including skill, education and training. Therefore, general physicians will be held to a different standard than someone who specializes in an area of medicine, like a cardiologist.

If it is determined that a medical professional failed to provide a patient with the minimum standard of care and injuries result, then a lawsuit is likely to succeed. Winning a hospital negligence lawsuit can bring a victim much needed compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as for pain and suffering. However, since this area of law is so complex, and merely establishing the minimum standard of care can be difficult, it may be beneficial to seek help from a qualified legal professional.

Source: FindLaw.com, "What is a Doctor's Duty of Care?" accessed on Aug. 3, 2014

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