The standard of care in a medical negligence action represents the duty which the defendant physician, nurse, hospital or other health care provider owes to the patient. In Virginia, it is that degree of care and skill possessed by the reasonably prudent practitioner of the same specialty in this state. This standard is an elusive one at best. While learned treatises and journal articles assist in determining the standard, in practice the plaintiff offers experts who state, based on their knowledge, training, and experience that the standard of care requires the defendant to provide a particular type of care which the defendant did not provide. The defendant in turn, offers experts with similar knowledge, training and experience who testify that the standard required a different type of care, which the defendant did in fact provide. The trial becomes a "battle of the experts," a contest where each side attempts to obtain a greater number of more attractive and more convincing experts.
Gwen M. Schockemoehl,
Admissibility of Written Standards as Evidence of the Standard of Care in Medical and Hospital Negligence Actions in Virginia,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol18/iss4/3