When Baltimore residents place their trust in the hands of a doctor, they expect that the doctor will act with the care required under the circumstances. Indeed, doctors have a duty to act with reasonable care, although it may be unclear to some patients what exactly that means.
In a medical malpractice case, an injured patient must prove the doctor violated the standard of care. The first step in this showing is that the doctor actually owed the patient a duty of care. For example, a doctor at a restaurant has no duty to come help a person suffering a heart attack. On the other hand, if the doctor is treating the person as a patient, the doctor owes that patient a duty of care.
Accordingly, the doctor typically must have a doctor-patient relationship in order to owe a duty of care. This is an important distinction, as it does not depend on the procedure itself, but the relationship between the doctor and patient.
For example, one man recently was awarded $28.5 million in a medical malpractice action based on significant personal injury he suffered as a result of doctor error. The man had undergone a controversial procedure that he did not need to undergo, during which his doctor failed to monitor warning signs. As a result, the man suffered a loss of oxygen in his brain, cardiac arrest and permanent brain injury.
The doctor's duty of care was at issue in the case, as the jury found the doctor had violated the standard of care by clear and convincing evidence. This is an even higher evidentiary standard than the typical preponderance of the evidence standard, and demonstrates the egregiousness of the doctor's conduct and the degree of violation of care in the case.
Source: South Florida Times, "Jury hits 2 doctors with $38.5m in medical negligence verdict," Mohamed Hamaludin, May 23, 2013