When you visit a doctor’s office or hospital in Arizona, you have a legal right to expect a certain level of patient care. Federal and state laws hold physicians and healthcare centers to the highest standards of patient care. Falling short of these duties can cause unnecessary and preventable patient injuries, illnesses, and wrongful deaths – as well as medical malpractice lawsuits. Understanding a doctor’s duty of care to patients is one of the first steps in proving a medical malpractice claim and obtaining compensation.
Standards Within the Doctor-Patient Relationship
No court in Arizona will hear your medical malpractice case if you weren’t in a doctor-patient relationship with the physician involved. If you received “medical advice” from a doctor at a cocktail party, for example, you cannot file a lawsuit against that doctor for subsequent health problems. You and the physician in question must have had an established doctor-patient relationship at the time of the alleged malpractice. Otherwise, the medical standards of care won’t apply to your case.
Proving that this relationship existed may require documents, testimony, and other evidence. Receiving exams from a doctor for a certain health complaint, for example, establishes this relationship. Medical records during your treatment can help you prove your status as the physician’s patient. Only then may you make a claim that the doctor owed you duties of care as a patient. Once you prove your professional relationship with the physician, the next step is to understand what a doctor’s duties of care entail.
Duties All Doctors Owe Their Patients
In Arizona, the law defines “medical malpractice” as injury or death based upon a licensed health care provider’s negligence, misconduct, errors, omissions, or breach of contract in rendering services. Proving that malpractice exists takes identifying ways in which the doctor breached his or her duties of care to a patient in rendering professional services. A “breach” can mean any conduct that falls short of accepted standards of care in the medical industry. The following are some duties of care doctors always owe their patients:
Duty to accurately diagnose.
Doctors must properly assess a patient’s symptoms and complaints to come to an accurate and timely diagnosis. It is a physician’s duty to order the proper tests, interpret results correctly, recommend experts, and use the process of elimination to narrow down possible diagnoses to the correct one. Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or delayed diagnosis are all medical malpractice if a reasonable and prudent doctor would have correctly diagnosed the condition and prevented patient harm.
Duty to warn and advise.
It is a doctor’s duty to disclose adequate information to patients, such as the health risks involved in a surgical procedure or possible side effects of a prescription drug. Doctors must also disclose risks that could impact third parties. For instance, if a medication could make someone drowsy enough to fall asleep behind the wheel and injure others, the doctor must communicate this risk. Failure to give adequate information to a patient could be malpractice if it causes harm.
Duty to supervise.
Part of a doctor’s general standards owed to patients is the duty to delegate tasks to trained personnel, such as assistants or nurses. If another doctor would not find it reasonable to do so in the same circumstances, however, the physician could be guilty of malpractice. It is a physician’s duty to supervise patient care in a way that is adequate based on the situation.
If you believe a physician in Arizona breached any of these or other duties during an appointment or treatment plan, resulting in injuries or the death of a loved one, contact a Phoenix personal injury attorney at Knapp & Roberts about a potential medical malpractice case. Physicians owe high duties of care to all patients. Breaching these duties and causing harm to others are grounds for a civil claim in Arizona.
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