Negligence and Liability – Health System Example

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"Negligence and Liability" is a wonderful example of a paper on the health system. Negligence, in nursing and medical terms, may be defined as a failure to take action in certain situations as a rationally sensible person would have if presented with similar circumstances (Leonhardt, 2009). Such negligence also occurs by failure to act by practitioners with knowledge of the situations but instead deviate from laid down protocols and procedures without valid reasons, resulting in patients’ injury or death. Medical malpractice is a demonstration of disregard in a medical practitioner’ s professional and licensed faculty, illustrated by not adhering to standards of practice and causing harm or death (Leonhardt, 2009).

It is professional negligence involving omissions or acts below standards. Liability is the legal responsibility and accountability those found guilty of the above offenses will be faced with. This paper will describe the types of liabilities present in Jose’ s case and who might be liable for his disability, the possible court ruling, and reasons with an example.                       There are three possible liabilities in this scenario. First, the institution may be faced with hospital negligence.

Secondly, the emergency room physician may bear liability for doctor malpractice and failure to communicate, and thirdly, the anesthetist may be liable for the negligence of duty. In the physician’ s case, if he is fully trained, he is well aware that situations in a hospital’ s emergency room are always urgent and change rapidly (Leonhardt, 2009). These situations call for immediate diagnosis, attention and appropriate care at the right time to ensure recovery and survival of patients, and the physician was responsible for administering such diagnosis. However, in disregard to these facts, it took extraordinarily long before an x-ray was done.

The doctor further postponed the necessary surgery to the following day because the anesthetist would not be available till morning. If from his diagnosis he had established that surgery must be done on Jose’ s shoulder, he owned the responsibility of communicating with the management and asking for an anesthetist immediately. These incidents constitute a failure to make a patient’ s prompt and proper diagnosis, to attend to them on time, and to conduct appropriate procedures with the urgency of an emergency room.                       On the part of the hospital, we are not clearly told whether or not it was their arrangement, and within their knowledge that the anesthetist would not be on duty during the night.

However, if this was the hospital’ s arrangement, then it may have to bear liability for hospital negligence and malpractice. Just like the physician, the hospital’ s management, and specifically the shift manager, knows of the crucial nature of the emergency room. The only reason the hospital is open at night is that it expects to receive and admit patients.

It is, therefore, against ethics of practice to be willing to admit patients but they do not have arrangements that ensure that all the required and qualified professionals are available at the same time (Leonhardt, 2009). This constitutes both negligence and malpractice on the part of the hospital’ s management because they are aware of the high stress, quick-paced crisis management surroundings of the emergency room.                         Thirdly, on the anesthetic’ s part, we are not clearly told whether or not he was supposed to be working that night’ s shift.

However, if he was to be on duty but absconded, then he may bear liability for neglect and abscond from duty, thus endangering the lives of patients. It is his responsibility to ensure that he is available whenever the emergency room is in operation unless he has prior arrangements with the hospital. The surgery could not be performed during the night because he was not in the hospital to administer anesthesia. This led directly to the delay of surgery and Jose’ s disability.                       In my opinion, I think liability may fall upon different parties depending on the findings of the legal proceedings.

However, the physician’ s case may be more direct. This is because whether or not the hospital authorized the anesthetic’ s absence, hence delaying the surgery, it was the physician’ s responsibility to communicate the emergency before him to the relevant authorities, who would then provide another anesthetic. Furthermore, there is no apparent reason as to why it took long to carry out the x-ray and diagnosis procedures, subjecting Jose to longer periods of pain before action was taken. The court would find him liable for professional negligence.

For the hospital, if it was within their knowledge and approval that the anesthetic was not on duty, then they are liable and should be charged with hospital negligence and malpractice. They should have provided an alternative anesthetic for that night. The only condition under which a court could absolve them from blame is if the anesthetic was not on duty by his own accord. On the anesthetic’ s part, I think a court would find him liable for absconding and neglecting his duty.

His only way out of blame would be if the hospital had allowed him to be away that particular night.                       In conclusion, Jose’ s parents will need to prove several facts for a court to be able to confirm liability against the hospital and its staff (Leonhardt, 2009). They must prove that the hospital and its staff owed Jose a responsibility by admitting him; a responsibility they did not dispense on time. They must also prove that the hospital and its staff breached a standard of duty by delaying diagnosis and surgery, and an act of omission was committed by not giving anesthesia that night.

Finally, they must prove that all these events resulted in Jose’ s disability. Proof of these facts will enable them to get a ruling in Jose’ s favor by the court upholding all the liabilities brought against the hospital and its staff. An example of a similar court ruling on disability occasioned by delays and negligence took place in The Supreme Court of British Columbia on December 4, 1998 (Williamson, 1999). Ximena, born in Vancouver General Hospital in 1985, was not given any care in her life’ s first 45 minutes.

The negligence of the hospital’ s staff further delayed the availing of the resuscitation team and equipment. 12 years later, when a ruling was delivered, she was quadriplegic, had cerebral palsy, and a three-year-old language ability. Her condition, brought about by negligence and malpractice by the hospital, will subject her to 24-hour care for the rest of her life. The doctors were sued for the delay despite knowing Ximena’ s critical condition. The court ordered them to pay compensation to Ximena’ s guardians and, on top of that, the contingency fee quoted by the lawyer (Williamson, 1999).


Leonhardt, D. (2009). “Medical malpractice system breeds more waste.” New York Times, September 22, 2009.

Williamson, J. (1999). Medical malpractices. Retrieved from

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