Le­gal ba­sis of a hospi­tal’s li­a­bil­ity for doc­tors’ neg­li­gence

The Freeman - - Opinion -

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

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