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Indemnification release at center of hospital negligence

Whether patients are exposed to hazards or tainted equipment, or staff is put at risk due to unclean hospital facilities, organizational negligence can cause serious consequences for many. Hospital negligence can impact doctors and nurses as well as patients. In a recent case against a New York hospital, plaintiffs claim that negligence caused the death of a doctor.

The case, which was dismissed due in part to a signed agreement presented by the defense, involves a doctor with a troubled history. The doctor used drugs to commit suicide in 2011. According to records, the doctor developed an addiction to propofol during her professional career.

In 2010, the doctor admitted her drug problem to a superior. She was admitted to a rehabilitation program. After six weeks, the woman was released and cleared for a return to work. During the time directly following her return to work, the doctor was not put in a position with direct access to certain drugs.

The doctor's return to the hospital required her to sign an indemnification agreement. Items in the agreement included a promise not to use drugs, affirmation that she would submit to required drug testing and a promise to follow recovery treatment plans. The agreement also said the hospital would not be held liable for certain actions from the doctor.

According to reports, in May 2011, the doctor told superiors she planned to resign. This revelation came two months after the doctor received her OR privileges back. Those privileges came with access to medications such as propofol.

The doctor committed suicide the day after she informed the hospital she intended to resign. Her estate brought the matter to court, stating that the doctor's signature on the agreement had not been witnessed. The estate implied the signature could be fake and that the document language was not clear. In the court's decision against the estate, it pointed out that handwriting experts were not used in the case.

Medical malpractice and hospital negligence can have far-reaching and tragic consequences. The burden of proof in these cases often falls on the plaintiff, however. A strong case must include detailed investigation and solid arguments.

Source: Outpatient Surgery, "Hospital Wasn't Negligent in Anesthesiology Resident's Propofol Suicide" Jim Burger, Dec. 19, 2013

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