Excerpt From Medical Ethics: Real-World Application By Afshin Nasser

Medical Malpractice and Professional Liability

Treatments and procedures are conducted with the best intentions, and unfortunately, despite best efforts, the outcomes do not always turn out as expected. Sadly, we live in a litigious society, and in the case of medical incidents, patients and families need to hold someone responsible. Healthcare professionals are responsible not only for their actions, but those of their staff as well. Everyone associated with negligence is liable for damages.

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Merriam Webster dictionary defines malpractice as:
1: a dereliction of professional duty or a failure to exercise an ordinary degree of professional skill or learning by one (such as a physician) rendering professional services which results in injury, loss, or damage
2: an injurious, negligent, or improper practice: malfeasance

Treatments and procedures are conducted with the best intentions, and unfortunately, despite best efforts, the outcomes do not always turn out as expected. Sadly, we live in a litigious society, and in the case of medical incidents, patients and families need to hold someone responsible. Healthcare professionals are responsible not only for their actions, but those of their staff as well. Everyone associated with negligence is liable for damages.

Most cases reflect legal action against physicians, however all individuals in the medical profession can be sued.

There are “four Ds” to prove in malpractice litigation: Dereliction of Duty Directly causing Damages.

Physicians encounter difficult situations every day in clinical practice and rely on the law for speedy guidance. Law demands obedience and punishes disobedience. Understanding legal rules and regulations, and adherence to this framework, provides clinicians with certain immunities against civil and criminal liability. However, in healthcare, when moral issues arise, the law is rather silent, which allows for choices to be made in healthcare for a patient or clinician.

Laws are not flawless, and healthcare professionals have a moral responsibility to protect their patients from harm, while also protecting themselves from liabilites. Absolute self- protection should not be the overriding factor, as any therapeutic modality poses a legal risk.
The American Medical Association’s “Principles of Medical Ethics” states, “A physician shall respect the law and recognize a responsibility to seek changes in those requirements which are contrary to the best interests of the patient.”

Q38 A 22-year-old female is admitted to the hospital with Steven Johnson Syndrome. Two weeks prior to admission, the patient was seen in the outpatient clinic by a colleague, and she was prescribed trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole for a UTI. The patient’s medical record clearly indicates that she has a sulfa allergy. The patient is clearly upset and expresses concern as to why she was prescribed a sulfa drug. What should be the next appropriate response?
A- Offer to transfer patient care to another facility
B- Reassure patient that prescribing physician will be informed, and steps will be taken
to avoid future errorsC- The patient’s pharmacy is at fault for not detecting the error
D-Arrange for the patient to meet the prescribing physician

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State Medical Boards

The medical board’s duty is to protect the public, not the physician. State medical boards today focus on licensed physicians who violate professional ethics, and their mandate has significantly evolved to focus on disciplining physicians.

Read More »

Boundary Violation

Boundaries create a therapeutic distance between physician and patient and clarify their respective roles and expectations. Boundaries define limits of the therapeutic relationship.

Read More »

Medical Ethics: Real-World Application By Afshin Nasser

You may have acquired this book as a result of conflicts with peers, administrators, patients, or State Medical Boards, where the outcomes of those interactions have left you wondering, “…what if I had done things differently?”

In that case, I hope that this book answers some of your questions and guides you with regards to any future quandaries you may encounter.


If you are a healthcare worker seeking to understand the subject of medical ethics, then I hope this book helps you acquire the clarity you seek.
If you are an individual simply curious about medical ethics, then I raise my hat to you for your pursuit of knowledge.