On July 1994, respondent three months pregnant Editha Ramolete was brought to the Lorma Medical Center (LMC) to vaginal bleeding. A pelvic sonogram was then conducted on Editha revealing the fetus weak cardiac pulsation. Editha’s repeat pelvic sonogram showed that aside from the fetus weak cardiac pulsation, no fetal movement was also appreciated. Due to persistent and profuse vaginal bleeding, petitioner Dr. Fe Cayao-Lasam advised Editha to undergo a Dilatation and Curettage Procedure (D&C) or raspa which the petitioner performed.
On September 1994, Editha was brought again to LMC due to vomiting and severe abdominal pains. One of the attending physician, Dr. Mayo allegedly informed Editha that there was a dead fetus in her womb. Editha underwent laparotomy where she was found to have a massive intra-abdominal hemorrhage and a ruptured uterus. Editha had to undergo a procedure for hysterectomy and as a result, she has no more chance to bear a child.
On November 1994, Editha and her husband Claro Ramolete filed a Complaint for Gross Negligence and Malpractice against petitioner before the PRC.
Respondents alleged that Editha’s hysterectomy was caused by petitioners unmitigated negligence and professional incompetence in conducting the D&C procedure and the petitioners failure to remove the fetus inside Editha’s womb. Petitioner denied the allegations of negligence and incompetence
On March 1999, Board of Medicine of the PRC exonerated petitioner from the charges filed against her. Feeling aggrieved, respondents went to the PRC on appeal. On November 2000, the PRC reversed the findings of the Board and revoked petitioners authority or license to practice her profession as a physician. Petitioner brought the matter to the CA but was dismissed on the ground of being improper and premature.
Issue: WON there was medical malpractice in the case?
Held: There was no medical malpractice in the case.
Medical malpractice is a particular form of negligence which consists in the failure of a physician or surgeon to apply to his practice of medicine that degree of care and skill which is ordinarily employed by the profession generally, under similar conditions, and in like surrounding circumstances. In order to successfully pursue such a claim, a patient must prove that the physician or surgeon either failed to do something which a reasonably prudent physician or surgeon would not have done, and that the failure or action caused injury to the patient.
There are four elements involved in medical negligence cases: duty, breach, injury and proximate causation.
From the testimony of the expert witness and the reasons given by him, it is evident that the D&C procedure was not the proximate cause of the rupture of Editha’s uterus. Further in the testimony, it is clear that the D&C procedure was conducted in accordance with the standard practice, with the same level of care that any reasonably competent doctor would use to treat a condition under the same circumstances, and that there was nothing irregular in the way the petitioner dealt with Editha.
Medical malpractice is often brought as a civil action for damages under Article 2176 of the Civil Code. The defenses in an action for damages, provided for under Article 2179 of the Civil Code are:
Art. 2179. When the plaintiffs own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages. But if his negligence was only contributory, the immediate and proximate cause of the injury being the defendants lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded.
It is also undisputed that Editha did not return for a follow-up evaluation, in defiance of the petitioners advise. Editha omitted the diligence required by the circumstances which could have avoided the injury. The omission in not returning for a follow-up evaluation played a substantial part in bringing about Editha’s own injury. Had Editha returned, petitioner could have conducted the proper medical tests and procedure necessary to determine Editha’s health condition and applied the corresponding treatment which could have prevented the rupture of Editha’s uterus. The D&C procedure having been conducted in accordance with the standard medical practice, it is clear that Editha’s omission was the proximate cause of her own injury and not merely a contributory negligence on her part.