Medical malpractice covers not just medical doctors, but other health practitioners as well. This includes anesthesiologists, nurses, even pharmaceutical companies and health care facilities. The objective of medical malpractice is to substantiate the flaw of the medical practitioner, more often the doctor, but covers all other entities related to medicine and health care. Here is a rundown of institutions also liable for medical malpractice.
Hospitals may be publicly or privately owned, and they can also be held liable for medical malpractice, directly on their own negligence. At the same time, they are indirectly or vicariously liable for employee negligence.
Doctors, nurses, doctor’s assistants, nurse practitioners, and other health care providers are what hospital staffs are composed of. During the hiring process, the hospital must carefully examine each applicant’s background – education, training, and the proper license. If it fails to do so, should the neglectful staff cause harm or injury to a patient, the hospital may be sued for “corporate negligence” due to retention or supervision. The hospital may be directly responsible for its negligence when it has failed to inspect the credentials of a health practitioner before giving him hospital privileges, or where the hospital allows a health practitioner to do business in the hospital even when it knows of his incompetence.
In order to preserve the quality of caring for the patients, hospitals need to maintain a certain number of registered nurses on duty. If the hospital does not follow this, it may be held responsible for the damages caused by a shortage of nurses. At the same time, when an employee staff does not follow the orders of the doctor, is another potential accountability. But on the opposite, when an employee staff finds the doctor’s orders as contradictory and he does not clarify about the treatment, the hospital may also be deemed responsible.
What is Vicarious Liability in Cases of Medical Malpractice?
The doctrine of “respondeat superior” basically means that the hospital may be held responsible for the harm done by the malpractice of any hospital staff. This doctrine covers the negligence of the employer for the injuries done by an employee during the period of his employment. The “respondeat superior” doctrine is critical to cases of medical malpractice, because this doctrine will make sure that there will be a party that will be financially liable in compensating the injured patient.
For instances when doctors are independent contractors and not official employees of the hospital, this doctrine does not apply. What happens is that the hospital cannot be held responsible for that doctor’s negligence. In some cases though, the hospital may have vicarious liability for the contractors’ offenses if the hospital operates outpatient facilities and emergency rooms.
There are times when the pharmaceutical company which manufactured the medicine that caused the injury to the patient may be held responsible. However, only during times when the company did not warn the doctors of the dangers and adverse effects of the medicine.
The duty of pharmaceutical companies is directed towards the doctors. That is why the company should not be held responsible for the damages caused to the patient, as long as it has sufficiently warned the doctor of all the potential harm that may be caused by the medicine.
To the end users of the medicines, the pharmaceutical company is responsible in letting them know that the medicines they manufacture are safe when used as indicated. To ensure this, the company must thoroughly conduct researches on possible adverse effects of the medicine before releasing it out on the market. Failure to warn doctors of the negative effects of the medicines categorizes the medicines as “unreasonably dangerous.” For not complying in giving the required notices, the manufacturing company will then be held responsible.
Most of the time, the prescribing doctor is referred to as a “learned intermediary.” This is because he is supposed to have expert knowledge on the matter and is assumed to have received sufficient information from the pharmaceutical company, and is assumed to be in the best position to know whether a medicine or device is suited aptly for his patient. Therefore, it is the key responsibility of the doctor to advise the patient of all the possible adverse effects of a medicine or device that he prescribes to him.
If you find yourself in a similar situation of medical malpractice, and you do not know who should be held responsible for it – is it the hospital, the pharmaceutical company or the doctor, the best step is to consult with a lawyer who is an expert on the matter. Gordon & Doner Law Firm is composed of a highly qualified set of expert lawyers that deal with claims on personal injuries, from insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical providers, and other related cases.