Thursday, 7 June 2012

Emedinews:Insights on Medicolegal Issues:Inevitable medical accident in healthcare delivery

An inevitable medical accident or "unavoidable medical occurrence" in health care delivery is that which could not be possibly prevented by the exercise of ordinary medical/surgical/paramedics and nursing care, caution and skill.

In medical profession, it means any medical/surgical accident that results in damage/injury/disability or death that was not avoidable by any such precautions as a reasonable qualified medical professional or hospital doing such an act then, "could be expected to take." A general/ reasonable medical professional is not credited by the law with exact perfection of judgment. As observed by Greene M.R., an accident is “one out of the ordinary course of things, something so unusual as not to be looked for by a person of ordinary prudence.

During the course of treatment, an accident occurs which could not be avoided by any ordinary skill or care on the part of the doctor administering the treatment, the accident is said to be inevitable accident. The term ‘inevitable accident ‘has been defined as an accident not avoidable by any such precautions as a reasonable man can be expected to take’. In the case of (Gerber V.pines 21) the plaintiff claimed damages against the defendant alleging that during the administration of a hypodermic injection the defendant left part of a broken needle in her buttock. The defendant denied liability and said that the breakage of the needle was due to a sudden muscular spasm and that no skill or care on his part could have prevented the fracture of the needle or the retention of the broken part in the plaintiff‘s body. The judge found that there had been no negligence on the part of the defendant in so far as the fracture of the needle was concerned, he found however, that had been a breach of duty on the part of defendant in not informing the plaintiff or her husband that the needle had fractured and that a piece of it was still in her body. For this the judge awarded the plaintiff a small sum by way of damages.

In cases of inevitable medical accident, a very positive/sympathetic/grief sharing approach should be taken by the doctor towards his/her patient and all logistic medical/surgical services must be extended/provided to the patient without cost by the doctor/hospital to restore/enhance faith and trust of this profession since the service which medical professionals render to the people/society and nation is the noblest one. The patient must also be told that inevitable medical accident was due to the elementary forces of nature unconnected with the hospital/doctor and they are there to share with the patient's suffering.

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