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When we are sick or injured, we turn to doctors and health care providers to make us whole again. We ask them to cure or control our disease and to repair our broken bodies.

Thanks to huge advances in medical research and technology, doctors today can do amazing things to improve our health and well-being. So our expectations of what is possible when we walk in for treatment are high. When we don’t get the desired outcome, it is only natural that we want to know how the doctor “messed up.” Enter medical malpractice lawsuits.

Countless patients who receive an unexpected outcome want to seek recovery against their doctor. But medical malpractice lawsuits are not about providing justice for patients who received bad outcomes. They are about providing justice for patients who received substandard treatment. In other words, to successfully bring a medical malpractice suit against a physician or health care provider, it is not sufficient for the plaintiff to simply claim, “I expected outcome ‘A’ and got outcome ‘B’.”

Instead, under Virginia law, the plaintiff must show that the actions and decisions of the health care provided failed to meet what is known as the “standard of care.” What this essentially means is that doctors, nurses, surgeons, technicians and countless other types of health care providers are expected to exercise the skill, expertise and care that would generally be exercised by providers with that same specialty and in that same situation.

The question here isn’t about whether the treatment, medication or surgery was successful. The questions are much more about how the doctor came to prescribe a particular treatment or whether they expertly performed a surgery. Did your doctor fail to administer a specific tet or diagnostic that they should have? Did they neglect to consider how multiple prescribed medications might interact with each other? Did they fail to foresee a common complication that could arise during surgery? Were they sloppy when they conducted the surgery? In answering all of these questions, the law requires us to compare your doctor’s actions to an objective standard of care that the medical community would expect your doctor to have upheld.

Dealing with an undesirable medical outcome is an unfortunate situation that many patients have to confront. And it is only natural to want to seek recovery. But not every bad result from a surgery or every failed medication amounts to malpractice.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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