Ethical and Legal Issues
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Since I am the newly appointed assistant to In-service Coordinator, it is my responsibility to ensure that all newly hired nurses and physicians are familiar with the legal and ethical guidelines of our facility. This essay focuses on how I would explain these guidelines to them using the concept of corporate negligence, respondeat superior and the corporate duties and responsibilities that every healthcare organization should fulfill.
Corporate negligence occurs when a company such as healthcare facility breaches the duty of care to a third party who consequently suffers harm due to this breach (Pozgar, 2010). If the company’s board of directors’ members fail to observe their duty, the company may suffer harm resulting in significant losses. Any person acting on behalf of a healthcare facility in good faith is liable for corporate negligence and, hence, the vicarious liability concept is applied. The case of Darling vs. Charleston Community Memorial Hospital is an example of corporate negligence. There are several legal duties in this case. The plaintiff was negligent in allowing Dr. Alexander to perform the orthopedic work without reviewing whether his operative procedures were up-to-date. Negligence was also noticed in exercising adequate supervision of the injured boy’s health. When complications started developing, the hospital did not even make an effort to consult Dr. Alexander on what the issue was (Pozgar, 2010). The nurses were also negligent since they failed in their duty of watching the protruding toes for changes in temperature, color and circulation for every ten to twenty minutes. It was also the duty of all the hospital staff to ensure that nurses reported on the injured boy developments to the hospital administrator. The hospital failed in its ethical duty towards the patient. It assigned Dr. Alexander to take care of the patient although it knew that this doctor had three lawsuits on negligence. Furthermore, when the patient complained that he felt pain in his leg, the doctor ignored his claims showing that he did not treat the patient’s safety and care as the first priority. The nurses failed in their ethical duty since a nurse is supposed to ensure that he/she devotes all the efforts to caring for patients (Pozgar, 2010). The nurses failed to make all the necessary medical tests that were required.
Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine which states that employers should be responsible for all the actions performed by their employees in their course of employment. This principle does not apply to actions performed by independent contractors and the tort must be committed within the course of employment (Santucci & Pozgar, 2009). Unethical behavior of a respiratory therapist could lead to an organization being held vicariously liable under the legal principle of respondeat superior. Respiratory therapist is responsible for evaluating and caring for patients with lung and heart problems. He also provides oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilation. The organization would be held vicariously liable if the therapist disclosed confidential information on the client’s health to the public. Furthermore, if an employee discriminates the patients based on race gender or color, the organization would be held vicariously liable (Stantucci & Pozgar, 2009). It would also be held liable if the therapists conducted the surgery procedures negligently. Occupational therapists help patients with physical disabilities to develop, recover or maintain their activities of daily living. An organization would be vicariously liable under the principle of respondeat superior if occupational therapists engaged in unethical behavior. If the therapist exploits the patient financially or socially, then the organization would be vicariously liable (Pozgar, 2010). In addition to this, if the occupational therapist engages in any sexual activity with the patient, while still in employment, then the organization would be vicariously liable. If the therapist fails to maintain the patient’s confidential records on his/her medical history and progress, then the organization would be vicariously liable. If the therapist acts negligently towards the patient during treatment and the patient suffers any harm, then the organization would be vicariously liable under the principle of respondeat superior.
Corporate duties are common law, equity and statutory obligations that the board of directors should fulfill. The directors have a fiduciary duty when conducting the affairs of the healthcare organization. They should conduct all the financial transactions with reasonable care and skill to avoid tax and civil liabilities (Buttaro & Buttaro, 1999). In addition to this, they should inspect financial statements prepared by management so that they can identify frauds in the healthcare systems. The directors should excise duty of care when making decisions that affect the healthcare organizations (Buttaro & Buttaro, 1999). Examples of such decisions include - lying off staff, expanding hospitals or closing down a particular ward. Healthcare organizations ensure that they achieve the role of corporate duties by designing strong internal controls in the healthcare facility. In addition to this, they ensure that they make all the directors responsible for their actions. Corporate responsibility refers to the mechanisms that a healthcare organization adopts to ensure that it complies with the ethical standards and principles of law (Kotler & Lee, 2005). An example of corporate responsibility is adopting medical practices that ensure the safety of patients. This may include hiring medical staff that is qualified, ensuring that the hospital premises are clean, there are enough beds to admit the patients and the patients’ records are safe.
In conclusion, it is evident that the knowledge of legal and ethical guidelines is vitally important in every healthcare facility. Corporate negligence principle helps to ensure that healthcare organizations do not breach the duty of caring for their patients by causing them harm. The principle of respondeat superior aims at ensuring that the healthcare facility is responsible for the wrongs committed by all their employees on the course of their employment contracts. Lastly, the healthcare organizations should ensure that they fulfil all their corporate duties and responsibilities such as a duty of fiduciary care, for example.