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The Standard of Care for Health Care Providers in Connecticut Explained

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert

male doctor with stethoscope

One of the elements of a successful medical malpractice claim is the establishment that a health care provider breached the duty they owed to a patient by deviating from the “standard of care.”  Defining the standard of care for medical providers in the United States has evolved over time to reflect advancements in society.  Prior to the standardization of medical training and certification in the U.S., the Massachusetts Supreme Court in the matter of Small v. Howard, 128 Mass. 131, 136 (1880), established the “locality rule” in 1880.  The locality rule required physicians to be held only to the degree of skill and care that is required of a physician practicing in the same community or that of a similar community.  The rationale for the rule’s creation was that the defendant was a practitioner in a small village and therefore he would not have had the opportunity for larger experience and skill possessed by practitioners in large cities who may have specialized in a certain area of medicine.

As decades passed and technology continued to advance, medical education became increasingly standardized.  National medical board certification examinations began to be administered in 1933, and accreditation of medical education programs beginning in 1942 created a circumstance where national standards needed to be followed to ensure compliance.  Importantly, modern technology made it possible for physicians in rural areas to receive the same access to information for patient care as physicians in urban settings.  As such, courts in the U.S. moved towards a “national standard of care.”  For instance, in 1968, the Massachusetts Supreme Court in Brune v. Belinkoff, 345 Mass. 102, 109 (1968), overruled Small v. Howard and determined that a physician who is a general practitioner should be held to the standard of care and skill of an average qualified practitioner, and a physician who holds themselves out as a specialist should be held to the standard of care and skill of an average practitioner of that specialty.  Similarly, in 1983, the Connecticut Supreme Court in Logan v. Greenwich Hospital Assoc., 191 Conn. 282, 301 (1983), explained with regard to standard of care that “the time has come to broaden the geographical limitation we have previously imposed to include the entire nation. . . .  We are not aware of any differences in educational background and training of physicians practicing in Connecticut compared with those in other states.  Medical literature of significance is normally disseminated throughout this county and not confined to a particular state.”  Thereafter, in 1986, the Connecticut legislature enacted legislation that follows the national standard.  Indeed, General Statutes § 52-184c, which sets forth the standard of care of health care providers, requires “that level of care, skill and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.”

Today, the vast majority of U.S. states, including Connecticut, observe the national standard of care for health care providers.  As the Connecticut Appellate Court explained, “medical care has moved from a statewide standard of care to a national standard of care, free of geographic limitations.”  Baranowski v. Safeco Ins. Co. of America, 119 Conn. App. 85, 95 n.11 (2010).

What Can You Do if You or Your Loved One Suffered from Potential Medical Malpractice?

If you believe that you or a loved one may have suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, you should reach out to an attorney right away.  Contact the experienced attorneys at Berkowitz and Hanna LLC if you have any questions about your legal rights regarding this concern.  To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call 203-872-0951 or contact us online today.