Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice Series, Part 1 - What are “Standards of Care”?

Jan Marin
Senior Associate, Gluckstein Lawyers

A key element of a medical malpractice case is the “standard of care” that healthcare providers are held to, that is, they must exercise a reasonable degree of care. But what does a reasonable degree of care mean? And what does it mean for your potential case?

In this blog, I will discuss what the term “standard of care” means. In a follow up blog, I’ll explain the importance of establishing “causation”, following a breach in the standard of care, for proving a plaintiff’s case.

Standard of Care

Simply put, “standard of care” in medical malpractice cases is what the healthcare provider must adhere to. This includes the steps, considerations, medications, tests, and questions to ask of their patient in a particular situation. But how is this standard established? The standard is determined by observing what other healthcare providers, with similar experience and training, facing similar circumstances, would do.

Just like you and I, healthcare providers are human. They are not held to a standard of perfection. If a healthcare provider’s actions have resulted in an injury to a patient, it does not necessarily mean that there has a been a breach of the standard of care. The standard of care will be met if the provider exercised a reasonable degree of care and skill. That said, a breach of the standard of care may be found if it is determined that other healthcare providers would generally make a different choice, or offer different treatment, under comparable circumstances.  

Healthcare providers should not stray outside of their experience and training. Treating a patient with a condition they are not familiar with or using medications or techniques outside of their training may result in a finding that they have breached the standard of care.

Common Breaches in Standards of Care

Some examples of breaches in the standard of care may include:  

  • Failure to recognize a baby is in distress during labour
  • Failure to recognize and/or properly treat a stroke
  • Missing or misreading an X-ray, CT, or MRI
  • Failure to recognize symptoms of a blood clot, infection, or other serious condition

These are just a few examples. There are many other situations that can result in a breach of the standard of care.

The Role of Medical Experts

The standard of care is unique in every case, and determining the standard requires specialized knowledge. Although experienced medical malpractice lawyers often have a general understanding of many areas of medicine, medical experts are still required by the court to provide an expert opinion on the standard of care. Without an expert opinion, a case can be dismissed entirely. For this reason, one of the first steps in most medical malpractice cases is to consult with a medical expert.  

Not Sure if You Have Case? We Can Help

Patients cannot always tell if they received the appropriate level of care from a healthcare provider. If you have suffered an unexpected injury following medical treatment and are unsure if you received the appropriate level of care, lawyers specializing in medical malpractice can help determine if a healthcare provider’s negligence contributed to, or caused your injury.

Of course, a breach in the standard of care is only one piece of the puzzle. In my next blog post, I’ll talk about the importance of establishing “causation” and damages to succeed in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Jan Marin is a Medical Malpractice and Professional Liability Lawyer with Gluckstein Lawyers in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Jan received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Development Studies at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada and her Juris Doctor degree from Western’s Law School in 2009.

Jan can be reached at:



jan marin medical malpractice lawyer gluckstein painworth personal injury
Jan Marin, Gluckstein Lawyers

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