How to minimize the risk of medical error during the coronavirus epidemic

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Determining whether a medical event has occurred in a particular case is difficult and requires a thorough analysis of the evidence. So what does a hospital do to protect itself from floods and lawsuits? The activity of the commission for the examination of medical events is related to the need to determine whether there has been a breach of the requirements of modern medical knowledge in a given case.

The Commission does not decide on the guilt of the hospital’s medical staff, but only assesses – on the basis of the documents received, the testimony of the parties and the witnesses – whether or not the actions taken in the institution were appropriate in the given situation.  Consequently, this cannot be an indication from the committee, as in the case of civil proceedings, which is guilty of causing harm to the patient.

The solution to this problem is very complex and often requires the use of the opinions of experts, most often voivodship consultants, in the relevant field of medicine. So what is a “medical event” in the context of the current concepts of “medical error” and “complication”?

Medical error

According to the well-established definition of medical error in jurisprudence, it is considered to be “an action (inaction) of a doctor in the field of diagnosis and therapy, incompatible with the science of medicine within the limits of a doctor” (see Supreme Court decision of 1 April 1955, No. IV CR, 39/54, published OSN 1957, No. 1, p. 7). A medical error can be the misdiagnosis of a patient’s health (misdiagnosis) or improper treatment (therapy error).

With regard to the requirements regarding medical knowledge, it should be indicated that, in accordance with art. 2 of the Law on the profession of doctor and dentist, the fulfillment of the profession of doctor consists in the provision of medical services by a person who has the qualifications required by law, confirmed by the relevant documents.  

In addition, the doctor is obliged to practice in accordance with the instructions of modern medical knowledge, methods and means at his disposal for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, in accordance with the principles of professional ethics and due diligence. All these conditions should appear together and only general data in this regard can decide whether a medical error has occurred in a given case or not.

 

The code of medical ethics is also an important document when evaluating a doctor’s actions. In accordance with art. 8 of the Code, the doctor must carry out with due care all diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive procedures, giving them the necessary time.

 

If these actions exceed the doctor’s qualifications, he is obliged to contact a more competent colleague (Article 10 (2) of the Code).

 

Associated with these obligations is the patient’s right to receive medical services that meet the requirements of modern medical knowledge (Article 6 (1) of the Patient’s Rights and the Ombudsman’s Law).