Legal basis of a hospital’s liability for doctors’ negligence
The Supreme Court is the peoples’ last bastion of justice, when victimized by either the fault or the negligence of medical service providers. In several cases, victims of medical malpractice and doctors’ gross incompetence have been awarded millions by way of damages for the mental anguish, serious anxieties, wounded feelings, and sleepless nights brought about by death of loved ones in the reckless hands of imprudent doctors in some uncaring hospitals.
I am not referring to the death of anyone due to COVID, but if there is ample evidence that some doctors have been remiss in their professional duties, then they should be brought to court. If their reckless negligence is proven by preponderance of evidence by a court of competent jurisdiction, then they may end up paying millions to the heirs of their victims. If lawyers can be disbarred, doctors can also be deprived of their licenses if only to save the public and future patients from their ineptitude and carelessness. Lawyers’ grave errors may result in the conviction of their innocent clients. But when doctors commit serious mistakes, their patients end up six feet below the ground. The hospital where they work may also be held solidarily liable.
These are not my words. The Supreme Court said so in an array of cases. In RP Nogales vs. CMC, et al (GR 142625) decided on December 19, 2006, the highest court of the land held: “Dr. E’s negligence in handling the treatment and management of Corazon’s condition which ultimately resulted in Corazon’s death is no longer in issue. Dr. E did not appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the ruling of the trial court finding Dr. E solely liable for damages.” The Supreme Court agreed with the appeal of the victim to hold the hospital liable too. Cited as Article 2180 of the Civil Code whereby it is provided that one is not only liable for wrongful act of its own but also for the acts of people working under him.
The highest court of the land found the hospital liable on the basis of a long-standing legal doctrine in civil law and in torts and damages. The court said: “Under the doctrine of apparent authority, a hospital can be held vicariously liable for the negligent acts of a physician providing care at the hospital, regardless of whether the physician is an independent contractor, unless the patient knows.” This has been discussed in my previous columns that were triggered by the Garcia Family’s sincere efforts to seek a meeting with the doctors to discuss the circumstances of the deaths of their brothers Nelson and Marlon, former mayors of Dumanjug and Barili, respectively. Without making a prejudgment, we are saying that the family of the deceased is entitled to be enlightened, otherwise they seek redress from other sources of reliefs.
Even if the family of the patients signed a release document, this is not going to free the hospital. The court succinctly held: “When a person needing urgent medical attention rushes to a hospital, he cannot bargain on equal footing with the hospital on the terms of admission and operation. Such a person is literally at the mercy of the hospital. There can be no clearer example of a contract of adhesion, than one arising from such a dire situation. Thus the release forms of CMC cannot relieve CMC from liability for the negligent medical treatment of Corazon. The court awarded the family actual and moral damages with legal interests.
It is high time that we, the poor patients, should assert our rights and not allow any shade of incompetence and negligence to ruin our health, safety, and life itself. We are paying too much for medical services. It is just right and proper that we demand the excellence in care that we deserve. Or, else, we may have to run to the courts for protection and redress.
September 1, declared by Pope Francis as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation to encourage “the world’s 2.2 billion Christians around the world to come together to pray and care for our common home,” also starts the monthlong celebration of the Season of Creation which ends by October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the beloved patron saint of ecology.
The Season of Creation is an ecumenical season dedicated to prayer for the protection of creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles.
The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, inspired by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical calls all to “reaffirm [our] personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which He has entrusted to our care, and to implore His help for the protection of creation, as well as His pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”
September 27, the last Sunday of September is officially the National Day of Seafarers and also the 13th year anniversary of the Stella Maris Seafarers’ Center. This day celebrates and acknowledges the vital role of seafarers for their families, for their countries and the whole world.
This year’s celebration centers on the theme: “Seafarers are key workers: You are not forgotten, you are not alone.” The pandemic, and most especially the fate of 40 seafarers on board the Gulf Livestock 1 ship which sank 100 nautical miles (185 km) west of Amami Oshima Island in southwest Japan last September 12 due to Typhoon Maysak, has tempered this year’s celebration for all seafarers.
Last September 23, the religious officials of the various Apostleship of the Sea-Stella Maris centers throughout the Philippines (Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Batangas, La Union, Cebu, Bohol, Iloilo, Maasin, Gen Santos and Iligan released this statement:
“In the spirit of the 22nd National Maritime Week and the 25th National Seafarers’ Day Celebration (Silver Jubilee), we, at the Apostleship of the Sea-Stella Maris Philippines, remember with prayerful hearts the 40 seafarers lost at sea from the maritime shipping disaster of Gulf Livestock 1 on September 2, 2020. We have not forgotten them. Hence, we are making a direct and strong appeal to the ship owner Gulf Navigation Holding to resume the