One of the most pivotal aspects of a medical malpractice case is whether or not there is sufficient evidence proving the physician in question breached the standard of care.

Why is this so important?

Without this evidence, it is impossible to prove that the accused medical professional did anything to specifically cause the injury or wrongful death. If it can be proved that the doctor didn't adhere to the standards of care in providing care to the patient, however, the odds that the plaintiff's claim will be successful go up considerably.

Standards of care can be found in medical journals, textbooks, clinical practice guidelines created by specialty boards, hospital policy and procedure manuals, and the regulations created by state and federal legislatures. The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospital Organizations (JCAHO) is a nationally-based non-profit organization that also has a hand in the creation of standards of care.

The JCAHO routinely inspects hospitals and their records for any instances in which the standard of care is not sufficiently met. Despite not having the authority to shut a hospital down for breaching those standards, they can remove the accreditation for an institution and thus render the facility incapable of participating in health care insurance plans.

Unfortunately, malpractice still occurs despite the establishment of standards of patient care. Even in cases which seem fairly clear cut, if proof cannot be found that the doctor breached standards of care, the likelihood is that the victim will have their claim thrown out.

When doctors are repeat offenders in regards to not abiding by standards of care, there are systems in place which are meant to discipline them, but the reality is that these systems often don't work. According to the American Association for Justice, over 90 percent of doctors who make multiple malpractice payments are never actually disciplined by state medical boards. In fact, of doctors who've made at least 10 malpractice payments, almost two-thirds never receive any disciplinary actions whatsoever.

With ever-evolving methods of testing and treatment for patients, standards of care must be updated fairly often. It is up to each and every medical professional to stay on top of these standards and be in tune with the rapid progress of medical science today. Many doctors fail to familiarize themselves with these new standards as they come out, which leads to greater potential for negligence and medical malpractice to occur.