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What is meant by the phrase standard of care?

Many people in the Albuquerque area may have heard the term standard of care used in the world of medicine.

While they may have a general idea of what the term might mean, since it is a term of art, understanding a bit more about standard of care may be helpful, particularly if a New Mexico resident suspects that he may have been a victim of medical malpractice or nursing home neglect.

Basically, the standard of care refers to those norms and practices that a reasonable medical professional, that is, one who is acting carefully and competently, would observe.

The idea behind the standard of care is that, on the one hand, medicine naturally entails a bit of guesswork. Medical professionals, to some extent, need the ability to use their best judgment even if the outcomes of their decisions turn out to be bad.

On the flip side, patients in nursing homes, and other settings, trust their doctors and other medical professionals in their lives, and they should be compensated when it turns out that trust was misplaced.

There is no book or single source where one can find the standard of care. This is because the standard of care is not so much a set of rules as it is norms and customs, the way in which medical professionals in a given community would practice medicine. Establishing a standard of care therefore usually requires some expert testimony.

Patients at nursing homes have the right to expect medical service consistent with the standard of care. If those caring for them fair to observe this standard, the patient or the patient's family, as the case may be, could be entitled to compensation.

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