GARCIA-RUEDA vs. PASCASIO G.R. No. 118141. September 5, 1997


Florencio V. Rueda, husband of petitioner Leonila Garcia-Rueda, underwent surgical operation at the UST hospital for the removal of a stone blocking his ureter. He was attended by Dr. Domingo Antonio, Jr. who was the surgeon, while Dr. ErlindaBalatbat-Reyes was the anaesthesiologist. Six hours after the surgery, however, Florencio died of complications of “unknown cause,” according to officials of the UST Hospital.

Not satisfied with the findings of the hospital, petitioner requested the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct an autopsy on her husband’s body.Consequently, the NBI ruled that Florencio’s death was due to lack of care by the attending physician in administeringanaesthesia. Pursuant to its findings, the NBI recommended that Dr. Domingo Antonio and Dr. ErlindaBalatbat-Reyes be charged for Homicide through Reckless Imprudence. The case was initially assigned to Prosecutor Antonio M. Israel, who had to inhibit himself because he was related to the counsel of one of the doctors. The case was re-raffled to Prosecutor Norberto G. Leono who was, however, disqualified on motion of the petitioner. The case was then referred to Prosecutor Ramon O. Carisma, who issued a resolution recommending that only Dr. Reyes be held criminally liable and that the complaint against Dr. Antonio be dismissed.

Assistant City Prosecutor Josefina Santos Sioson, recommended that the case be re-raffled on the ground that Prosecutor Carisma was partial to the petitioner. Thus, the case was transferred to Prosecutor Leoncia R. Dimagiba, who endorsed that the complaint against Dr. Reyes be dismissed and instead, a corresponding information be filed against Dr. Antonio. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, questioning the findings of Prosecutor Dimagiba. Pending the resolution of petitioner’s motion for reconsideration regarding Prosecutor Dimagiba’s resolution, the investigative “pingpong” continued when the case was again assigned to another prosecutor, who recommended that Dr. Reyes be included in the criminal information of Homicide through Reckless Imprudence. While the recommendation of Prosecutor Gualberto was pending, the case was transferred to Senior State Prosecutor Gregorio A. Arizala, who resolved to exonerate Dr. Reyes from any wrongdoing, a resolution which was approved by both City Prosecutor Porfirio G. Macaraeg and City Prosecutor Jesus F. Guerrero.

Aggrieved, petitioner filed graft charges specifically for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 against Prosecutors Guerrero, Macaraeg, and Arizala for manifest partiality in favor of Dr. Reyes before the Office of the Ombudsman. However, the Ombudsman issued the assailed resolution dismissing the complaint for lack of evidence. In fine, petitioner assails the exercise of the discretionary power of the Ombudsman to review the recommendations of the government prosecutors and to approve and disapprove the same. Petitioner faults the Ombudsman for, allegedly ingrave abuse of discretion, refusing to find that there exists probable cause to hold public respondent City Prosecutors liable for violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019.

Whether there was negligence on the part of the physicians which resulted to the death of Petitioner’s husband


Yes. No less than the NBI pronounced after conducting an autopsy that there was indeed negligence on the part of the attending physicians in administering the anaesthesia


The fact of want of competence or diligence is evidentiary in nature, the veracity of which can best be passed upon after a full-blown trial for it is virtually impossible to ascertain the merits of a medical negligence case without extensive investigation, research, evaluation and consultations with medical experts. Clearly, the City Prosecutors are not in a competent position to pass judgment on such a technical matter, especially when there are conflicting evidence and findings. The bases of a party’s accusation and defenses are better ventilated at the trial proper than at the preliminary investigation.

There are four elements involved in medical negligence cases: duty, breach, injury and proximate causation.

Evidently, when the victim employed the services of Dr. Antonio and Dr. Reyes, a physician-patient relationship was created. In accepting the case, Dr. Antonio and Dr. Reyes in effect represented that, having the needed training and skill possessed by physicians and surgeons practicing in the same field, they will employ such training, care and skill in the treatment of their patients.

They have a duty to use at least the same level of care that any other reasonably competent doctor would use to treat a condition under the same circumstances. The breach of these professional duties of skill and care, or their improper performance, by a physician surgeon whereby the patient is injured in body or in health, constitutes actionable malpractice. Consequently, in the event that any injury results to the patient from want of due care or skill during the operation, the surgeons may be held answerable in damages for negligence.

Moreover, in malpractice or negligence cases involving the administration of anaesthesia, the necessity of expert testimony and the availability of the charge of res ipsa loquitur to the plaintiff, have been applied in actions against anaesthesiologist to hold the defendant liable for the death or injury of a patient under excessive or improper anaesthesia. Essentially, it requires two-pronged evidence: evidence as to the recognized standards of the medical community in the particular kind of case, and a showing that the physician in question negligently departed from this standard in his treatment.

Causal connection is discernible from the occurrence of the victim’s death after the negligent act of the anaesthesiologist in administering the anesthesia, a fact which, if confirmed, should warrant the filing of the appropriate criminal case. To be sure, the allegation of negligence is not entirely baseless. Moreover, the NBI deduced that the attending surgeons did not conduct the necessary interview of the patient prior to the operation. It appears that the cause of the death of the victim could have been averted had the proper drug been applied to cope with the symptoms of malignant hyperthermia. Also, we cannot ignore the fact that an antidote was readily available to counteract whatever deleterious effect the anaesthesia might produce. Why these precautionary measures were disregarded must be sufficiently explained.


Michael Anthony Vito Cruz

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