Medical Malpractice

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Medical Malpractice is a case less often filed or pursued in our country. In other jurisdictions like the United States, it might be considered common for patients to sue their doctors and recover huge amounts. Here, we seldom hear patients suing their doctors and of judgements in the millions. This may be due to the patients’ lack of knowledge of their rights, lack of trust in our justice system, lack of interest half way through the trial, low conviction rate, or all of them. There are those rare cases however, that go through and receive favorable decision from the court.

Ramos vs. CA

Erlinda Ramos sought medical attention for the discomfort she was going through by reason of a stone in her gal bladder. After the usual medical evaluation by her doctors, she was deemed fit to undergo a medical procedure to have the stone removed. She was scheduled to be operated upon at the De Los Santos Medical Center and Erlinda’s husband Rogelio asked Dr. Hosaka to look for a good anaesthesiologist for the operation. Erlinda’s sister-in-law Herminida a college of nursing dean was requested to stay with Erlinda all through the procedure. On the day of the operation, Erlinda was already prepared for the operation as early as 7.30. Dr. Hosaka was nowhere to be found within the hospital premises so the patient, hospital staff and the anaesthesiologist Dr. Perfecta Gutierrez had to wait until past 12 noon. When Dr. Hosaka finally arrived, Dr. Gutierrez started intubating Erlinda. While trying to intubate the patient, Dr. Gutierrez remarked: “ang hirap ma-intubate nito, mali yata ang pagkakapasok. O lumalaki ang tiyan” (G.R. No. 124354. December 29, 1999). After a while, Erlinda’s nail bed turned blue and she was placed in “trendelenburg position – a position where the head of the patient is placed in a position lower than her feet which is an indication that there is a decrease of blood supply to the patients brain”. Erlinda suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen on her brain for 4-5 minutes and she was comatose from that day onwards. When she was released from the hospital, the family incurred a total of 93, 542.25 hospital bills and her daily medical and other needs amount to 8-10,000.00 A civil case for damages was filed against Drs. Hosaka and Gutierrez and the hospital. After trial, the court awarded damages to the family of Erlinda but on appeal the CA reversed the decision.

There Was Malpractice

The Supreme Court set aside the decision of the CA and reinstated the RTC decision with modifications increasing the amount of damages. The SC declared that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor “which literally means the thing or the transaction speaks for itself”. As applied in this case, the Court said: “It is grounded in the superior logic of ordinary human experience and on the basis of such experience or common knowledge, negligence may be deduced from the mere occurrence of the accident itself.” There can be no other conclusion that may be drawn from the facts other than the negligence of the defendants. Erlinda was scheduled to undergo a simple medical procedure to remove stones from her gal bladder but suffered brain damage while being intubated. Even a lay man can have no other conclusion other than that Erlinda’s present medical condition was caused by the negligence of the defendants. The Court in overturning the CA decision said: “We hold that private respondents were unable to disprove the presumption of negligence on their part in the care of Erlinda and their negligence was the proximate cause of her piteous condition.” The testimonial and documentary evidences presented clearly pointed to the negligence of all of the respondents so they were ordered to pay for actual, moral, temperate, exemplary damages and the monthly medical needs of Erlinda

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