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Each week a case will be reviewed and supplemented with clinical and legal resources from the web. Legal Nurse Consultants and nursing professionals are welcome to submit relevant articles. Please contact us if you'd like to reproduce our material.
The court would note that there is no legal duty owed by a physician/
psychiatrist to protect individuals from a patient's violent attacks.
According to state law, such a duty would only exist under special
conditions where a "relationship" existed. The court refused to
accept that this "relationship" existed between the clinician and the nurse.
The argument was made that this attack against the nurse was
"reasonably foreseeable" given the patient's psychiatric history.
The court noted that "warning of violent potential" might not have
been given to the staff by the psychiatrist. It noted also that
according to expert testimony for the plaintiff the initial assessment
may not have been sufficient to evaluate the patient's potential for violence.
The court ruled that the above did not change the fact that no
applicable "duty to protect" existed between the psychiatrist and
the nursing/facility staff. It did not accept the expert testimony as
conclusive that the attack could have been anticipated.
This sets a frightening precedent for nurses caring for potentially
violent patients. It is common for psychiatric and geriatric patients
to become disoriented and dangerous.
When faced with this situation on a unit that may be short-staffed
to start with, the nurse is left with few alternatives but to do the
"best" with what resources are available.
Knowing that the facility may very well not support or defend
a nurse's actions, it is ultimately the patient that will suffer.
If as in this case, the beaten nurse was left with no legal means of
retribution and little support, it is a wonder we step in at all.
Clinical Charting and Documentation, Nurses Notes
Direct Patient Care Links
Medical Legal Consulting Nurse Entrepreneurs:
Psychiatric Nursing Links:
Violence & Violent Patients:
Created on August 5, 1999
Last updated by Andrew Lopez, RN on Wednesday, January 30, 2013
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