THE MERGING OF STANDARD OF CARE AND DUTY
All of us have expectations as to how we should be treated in our interactions with others. We generally expect to be treated with respect, fairness, and concern for our needs. Overall such treatment should be standard and reasonable. It has been stated that, “the standard of care … is the duty to exercise the care that would be exercised by a reasonable and prudent person under the same or similar circumstances to avoid or minimize risks of harm to others.”1 The court in Gossett v. Jackson stated the “standard of care” in the following terms, “… negligence is the failure to exercise that degree of care which an ordinarily prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances to avoid injury to another.”2
When the so-called prudent person is associated with a professional class, such as pharmacists, the standard of care expected of those professionals may evolve into duties owed to those seeking their services. There are, however, examples of contradictions whereby not providing a specific standard of care—even if such standard of care is not recognized as a duty—would still be considered a breach of duty under a negligence analysis.
To illustrate the entanglement courts sometimes face when determining whether or not a pharmacist practiced a certain standard of care, and whether that standard of care was a definable duty on the part of the pharmacist to service the needs of a patient, several issues are expanded upon in the following.
A major and established standard of care expected of all practicing pharmacists—which courts are not divided on—is that pharmacists fill each processed prescription correctly. This requirement, while both logical and expected, is the duty of care required of every practicing pharmacist. If a case were presented in which a patient sues for an injury from an improperly filled prescription, and the defendant pharmacist claims he owes no duty of due care to fill that prescription correctly, the patient would win the case barring no strong countering defense (eg, prescribing doctor wrote a prescription for the wrong drug).
The standard of care issues involving other pharmacy practice matters have not always been clear or uniform as to whether or not a duty of due care existed on the part of a pharmacist. The following are examples where the courts have been divided as to whether a standard of care translates into a required duty on the part of the pharmacist:
The pharmacist’s duty to warn patients about the adverse effects associated with their prescribed drugs
The pharmacist’s duty to monitor a patient’s drug history
The pharmacist’s duty to control the patient’s refills
The majority of states have adopted laws mandating the aforementioned standards of care be treated as duties required of the pharmacist in the performance of his or ...