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In order to establish medical malpractice, the evidence presented by the patient must show a violation of the degree of care and skill required of a physician. Such standard of care is that which, under similar conditions and like circumstances, is ordinarily employed by the medical profession generally. Thus, in medical malpractice actions, the applicable standard of care is that employed by the medical profession generally and not what one individual doctor thought was advisable and would have done under the circumstances.
Plaintiff's wife died after a reaction to anesthesia during surgery deprived her of oxygen. Plaintiff sued the anesthesiologist and his employer, alleging that the employee's failure to prepare the oxygen before the surgery - which would have provided a reserve of oxygen in an emergency - was a breach of the standard of care, and medical malpractice. Both parties relied upon medical expert witnesses. Plaintiff planned to question defendant's expert on the practice of preparing oxygen before surgery. Evidence showed that the expert would have prepared the oxygen before surgery, and defendant moved to preclude that line of questioning. The trial court sustained the motion. A jury found in favor of defendants and an appellate court affirmed the judgment. Plaintiff appealed.
Was the plaintiff's proposed line of cross-examination of an expert medical witness as to how he would have treated the patient relevant in a medical malpractice action?
In affirming the lower courts' rulings, the state Supreme Court held that, because the standard of care in medical malpractice cases was that which was employed by the medical profession generally, and not what one individual physician would do under the same or similar circumstances, how a testifying medical expert personally would have treated a plaintiff or a decedent was not relevant to the issue of whether a physician committed malpractice. Additionally, because different medical conditions might be treated in different manners that were all consistent with the applicable standard of care, how a testifying medical expert personally would have treated a plaintiff or a decedent could not impeach the expert's credibility. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion in limine, because such questioning was irrelevant to the issue of whether defendants breached the applicable standard of care in failing to pre-oxygenate the decedent before administer anesthesia.