Legal Medicine Doctrines

Res ipsa loquitur – allows the mere existence of an injury to justify a presumption of negligence on the part of the person who controls the instrument causing the injury, provided that the following requisites concur:

  1. The accident is of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone’s negligence;
  2. It is caused by an instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant or defendants; and
  3. The possibility of contributing conduct which would make the plaintiff responsible is eliminated.

Res ipsa loquitur without the aid of expert testimony – where the court from its fund of common knowledge can determine the proper standard of care. Where common knowledge and experience teach that a resulting injury would not have occurred to the patient if due care had been exercised, an inference of negligence may be drawn giving rise to an application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur without medical evidence, which is ordinarily required to show not only what occurred but how and why it occurred. When the doctrine is appropriate, all that the patient must do is prove a nexus between the particular act or omission complained of and the injury sustained while under the custody and management of the defendant without need to produce expert medical testimony to establish the standard of care.

Captain of the Ship rule – the operating surgeon is the person in complete charge of the surgery room and all personnel connected with the operation. Their duty is to obey his orders.

Agency by estoppel – The principal is bound by the acts of his agent with the apparent authority which he knowingly permits the agent to assume, or which he holds the agent out to the public as possessing

Apparent Authority – in cases where it can be shown that a hospital, by its actions, has held out a particular physician as its agent and/or employee and that a patient has accepted treatment from that physician in the reasonable belief that it is being rendered in behalf of the hospital, then the hospital will be liable for the physician’s negligence.

hospital’s Corporate Responsibility – With the passage of time, more duties were expected from hospitals, among them: (1) the use of reasonable care in the maintenance of safe and adequate facilities and equipment; (2) the selection and retention of competent physicians; (3) the overseeing or supervision of all persons who practice medicine within its walls; and (4) the formulation, adoption and enforcement of adequate rules and policies that ensure quality care for its patients.

 A doctor’s duty to his patient is not required to be extraordinary.The standard contemplated for doctors is simply the reasonable average merit among ordinarily good physicians, It has been held that a patient cannot attribute to a physician damages resulting from his own failure to follow his advice, even though he was ignorant of the consequences which would result from his failure.


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