Tuesday, June 07, 2005

When our residents are sued

From Medical Economics: Malpractice Consult. Are you liable for a resident's mistake?
Q: I'm an attending physician who supervises residents at a big city hospital. If something goes wrong with one of the residents' patients, I'm afraid I could be held liable. My colleagues tell me not to worry. Are they right?

A: The short answer is "No." If a resident is sued while working at a hospital under your supervision, you and the hospital may both be held legally responsible for his actions. The resident may be sued initially, but plaintiffs will typically drop the resident and go after the attending and the hospital because they have "deeper pockets," and are therefore more lucrative targets.

Even if the resident is dropped from the suit, he may still be deposed, and may even have to testify at trial. If the case settles or results in a judgment, however, it's generally the attending whose name will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank, not the resident's...

One recent case involved a resident who worked at a nursing home under the supervision of an attending medical director who stopped by once a week. When a patient fell, the resident examined her and put her to bed without calling for an X-ray or consulting with the attending. Four days later, when the attending showed up and noticed the swelling, he diagnosed a fractured hip. In that case, the resident and the attending were both sued, but the plaintiff later dropped the resident from the suit, and proceeded against the attending only...
-excerpted from a column by John M. Fitzpatrick, JD. It's terrible for an attending to be sued for something that a resident has allegedly done (don't ask me how I know this...I might blog about it someday).
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