Types of Law
Types of Law
Various laws have been discussed in chapter 6 of the book, “Legal and Ethical Issues for Health Professionals”. The aim of these laws is to ensure that health practitioners act within the law with regard to patient care. In the past, there were cases where patients lost lives because of doctors’ ill practices. To avoid such deaths, and other mal practices that alter people’s lives for the worse, the law has been used to ensure that health care is effective and patient oriented. Recently, many have been taking advantage of the health care system by trying to gain financially. Therefore, it is important that, health care providers understand laws regarding this field to avoid such opportunists. The various laws discussed include, tort law, negligence, intentional among other types of law. While these laws may be general, there are circumstances within which these laws can be used in health matters. The law is used to enforce the ethical principles of a profession.
Tort law is considered a civil wrong that has been committed against a person or property. In such a case, the court offers a chance to remedy the situation by taking action inform of damages (Pozgar 2012). In most cases, damages are quantified in terms of financial compensation. When tort actions are taken, they touch on the personal and professional life of a person. Within tort law, there can be negligence and intentional tort. An appropriate example of tort would be medical mal practice where a physician fails to administer the correct patient care protocols that lead to medical complications or even death (VandeKieft 2006). This touches on the personal and personal life of the doctor. This is because the individual professional conduct and personal judgment are put into question.
Negligence is also referred to as a tort or a civil or personal wrong. Civil negligence refers to wrong that has affected the community (Pozgar 2012). Negligence is usually unintentional act that one would not normally perform. The unintentional commission or omission of an act may include various circumstances. The commission of an unintentional act includes giving wrong medication, administering the wrong dosage to a patient, giving medication meant or another to the wrong patient, and performing a surgical procedure without the express knowledge of the patient. Omissions include issues such as failure to offer medication to patients, failure to do follow-ups on unusual results and the failure to order relevant tests and procedures (Pozgar 2012). Negligence in most cases is caused by carelessness in a medical practitioner by undermining the essence of certain procedures (McLachlan 2010). Negligence is an aspect of mal practice where the medical practitioner has failed to offer proper medical care. Negligence goes against the ethical codes of the health care profession. In this sense, the lawful action against negligent behavior is to ensure that life is protected by ensuring medical practitioners are always up to the task.
For a patient to recover damages, there are four elements that a plaintiff needs to put into perspective. The first is the determination of whether the health care provider failed to perform duty to care (Pozgar 2012). Here, the plaintiff must establish a relationship between him and the defendant. This is to ensure that a plaintiff is not trying to malign someone else’s career just because they seek compensation. Plaintiff must also establish the care provided was not up to the expected standard or was not timely. The plaintiff also needs to establish the fact that the medical practitioner was incompetent in handling one’s case (VandeKieft 2006). The second element expects to answer whether the health care provider breach a contract with regard to patient care as earlier agreed. In this sense, the plaintiff has to ensure that the court understands the defendant failed to offer the standard of care that was promised. Third, are there any actual injuries or damages as they are legally referred to and finally, is determining causation. Injury refers to the suffering caused by the defendant due to negligent behavior. The fourth element, direct causation or proximate cause, proposes that there has to be a direct correlation between negligent behavior of a defendant and the cause for injury.
An intentional tort is negligence that has been performed deliberately. The proof of this lies in the fact that a medical practitioner intentioned to cause harm to a patient. The reasons for intending to cause harm do not matter in such a case and does not absolve such a person from responsibility. An aspect of intentional tort that may apply to the health care profession is defamation of character. Defamation of character is a situation where a person intends to create doubt in someone’s work ethic and integrity. Doctors fall prey to such situations very many times (Giordano 2003). This is because patients may not be satisfied with the outcome of treatment. Consequently, the person persecutes the doctor despite the fact that it is understood that the doctor has no fault in the matter.
However, there are doctors who are guilty of intentional tort. Euthanasia is one controversial factor of this aspect (McLachlan 2010). Euthanasia is mercy killing, where a doctor feels that a patient has suffered too much and aids the death of this patient to end the suffering. This issue brings about a conflict of interest with regard to the medical profession. The doctor is torn between whether to let the patient suffer or adhere to professional expectations by ensuring that he preserves life above all else. This ethical dilemma has been left to the law (Giordano 2003). Euthanasia is considered in law as killing and regardless of the reasons, someone found to propagate such is held accountable by the law (McLachlan 2010). .
The Impact of malpractice laws in the health care profession has been very effective in enhancing the ethical and moral standing of doctors, nurses and other members of the medical fraternity. It is necessary for the community have confidence in ability of their caregivers to offer the best service. Malpractice laws ensure that this is the way to go for the profession. However, there are instances where people would prefer to keep to themselves in the face of medical mal practices. Hospitals have been known to cover up malpractices to avoid the expensive nature of malpractice suits. In this regard, while mal practice lawsuits have been able to streamline the medical profession, it is necessary to motion that it may have created n aversion to ethical practices by health care providers. Hefty settlements in courts arising from malpractices have made individuals shy away from revealing mal practice in health care.
Not all practitioners believe that what they are doing is malpractice. This has made it easier for such cases to go unnoticed and at times to the detriment of the patient. A nurse who keeps quiet when medicine is suspiciously missing is form of negligent act that affects both patients and hospitals. While the hospital is aware that there is enough medicine in the hospital, another is aware of the fact that drugs have been coming out without following the right procedure. In the event patient dies due to failure of administering drugs at the right time, the hospital is blamed and the person who should have made hospital administration aware is not held accountable (McLachlan 2010). Most fear that they may be blamed or they prefer not to get involved. It is vital that hospitals ensure that malpractices in their hospitals are mitigated.
Ethics in the medical profession is important. Without proper codes of ethics, the medical profession is bound to fail in its mandate to secure quality health care for its patients. The law has done well in upholding the ethics; however, there are certain circumstances where others may feel that ethics and law do not agree. Others may ask where is the ethic in awarding hefty settlements in matters of malpractice especially where one was not aware.
Giordano, K. (2003). “Examining nursing malpractice: A defense attorney’s perspective”. American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Critical Care Nurse, 23, 104-107. Retrieved from http://ccn.aacnjournals.org/content/23/2/104.full.pdf
McLachlan, H. V. (January 01, 2010). Assisted suicide and the killing of people? Maybe. Physician-assisted suicide and the killing of patients? No: the rejection of Shaw’s new perspective on euthanasia. Journal of Medical Ethics, 36, 5, 306-9.
Pozgar, G. D. (2012). Legal and ethical issues for health professionals. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
VandeKieft, G. (2006). After harm: Medical error and the ethics of forgiveness. [Review of After Harm: Medical error and the ethics of forgivness, by N. Berlinger] Literature and Medicine, 25(1), 182-186. Retrieved from the ProQuest database.