LAW EACH WEEK
Law penalizes medical malpractices and negligence
by Atty. Karissa Tolentino

1 Recap of the definition of medical malpractice

In Dr. Rubi Li v. Sps Soliman (G.R. No. 165279, June 7, 2011), the Supreme Court defined mal practice as “that type of claim which a victim has available to him or her to redress a wrong committed by a medical professional which has caused bodily harm.” To prove that there was malpractice, the patient or his heirs and representatives must prove medical negligence in the aforementioned case.

2 The different penalties for medical malpractice

First, it is important to know that in medical malpractice cases, there are three actions the offended party can take: 1) Administrative case; 2) Civil case; 3) Criminal Case

The penalty for administrative cases would ultimately result to the revocation of the license of the physician involved in the medical negligence case. The decision in the administrative case will not bar the filing of the civil or criminal action as the case may be.

There are instances that the Supreme Court acquitted physicians from criminal liability but imposed upon them civil liability. One such case is Dr. Jarcia v. People G.R. No. 187926, Feb. 15, 2012 where the Court declared that “While no criminal negligence was found in the petitioner’s failure to administer the necessary medical attention to Roy Jr., the Court holds them civilly liable for the resulting damages to their patient.” In this case, the Court awarded actual, moral, and exemplary damages as well as cost of the suit against the physicians. However, in the case of Ramos v. CA, G.R. No. 124354. December 29, 1999, the Supreme Court did not limit their award to the cost of the suit, moral, temperate, exemplary damages, but it also ordered the person’s civilly liable to pay the victim P 8,000.00 until she dies or recovers from her comatose condition.

The criminal action can be premised either on reckless imprudence or simple imprudence as the case may be. The Court expressed that medical malpractice is actually medical negligence, where bodily injuries or death occur because of inexcusable lack of precaution or failure to employ the necessary diligence required by their profession. By this reason, the negligence of the physician is now made criminally punishable if the requisites for reckless imprudence or simple imprudence are present.

Lastly, it is important to note that although visiting physicians are not employees of the hospitals they visit, the Supreme Court held in Ramos (supra) “we rule that for the purpose of allocating responsibility in medical negligence cases, an employer-employee relationship in effect exists between hospitals and their attending and visiting physicians… The basis for holding an employer solidarily responsible for the negligence of its employee is found in Article 2180 of the Civil Code which considers a person accountable not only for his own acts but also for those of others based on the formers responsibility under a relationship of patria potestas. Such responsibility ceases when the persons or entity concerned prove that they have observed the diligence of a good father of the family to prevent damage.” In other words, if the hospital cannot present evidence that they exercised the proper diligence in selecting the doctors that visit their hospitals, they are held solidarily liable with the erring physician.

3 Reminder

This article is written just for the purpose of information and not in any way intended to injure the medical profession. I urge all readers to put this topic into perspective. Not all cases of bodily injury or death constitute medical malpractice. Our doctors are heroes in their own way. Theirs is a noble profession which involves saving of lives and limbs. Furthermore, “Doctors are protected by a special rule of law. They are not guarantors of care. They do not even warrant a good result. They are not insurers against mishaps or unusual consequences. Furthermore they are not liable for honest mistakes of judgment (Dr. Ninevetch Cruz vs. Court of Appeals and Lydia Umali, G.R. No. 122445, November 18, 1997)


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