In Week 5, you will discuss more specific issues as they relate to ethical and legal physician practices, patient abuse, and the efforts many healthcare organizations take to uphold ethics, including healthcare ethics committees.

Your Learning Objectives for the Week:

  • Apply legal and ethical principles, procedures, and cases to practical management problems frequently found in healthcare settings.
  • Analyze the rights and responsibilities that physicians have toward patients and analyze the role of legal and ethical principles in adhering to these rights.
  • Analyze existing issues of malpractice and liability in healthcare organizations and assess the measures taken to limit malpractice claims.


Physician Ethical and Legal Issues

Physicians are heavily guided by the elements of the Hippocratic Oath and code of medical ethics outlined by the American Medical Association. When it comes to ethical practice in the treatment of patients, both ethics and law intertwine. For example, the law stipulates that preventable harm warrants compensation, that is, when a physician injures a patient due to negligence, that physician must be penalized and that patient must be compensated. Such malpractice cases are, of course, an egregious violation of a physician’s ethical and legal responsibilities. Of similar importance are training physicians and their staff to show professionalism and compassion to build honest and trusting relationships with their patients. As healthcare administrators, you are likely to see cases of physician negligence involving patient assessments, medical diagnoses, and treatment, that is, the most common medical errors involve the following:

· Patient assessments encompass all processes that collect patient data needed to create appropriate and effective care plans. A myriad of healthcare professionals must work together to gather accurate information. A physician who performs a substandard patient assessment is more likely to misdiagnose health issues or provide incomplete care.

· Patient diagnoses require physicians to identify the most likely disease or disease process in a patient to support further actions for additional testing or treatment. However, despite the improvements in medical imaging and diagnostic testing, an overdependence on the results can be harmful to the patient.

· Finally, patient treatment, or the strategies used to restore the patient to health, may result in more harm than good. Whether the treatment is conservative or palliative, it is important that physicians periodically review best practices in the field and follow currently prescribed guidelines based on evidence.

Legal Action against Healthcare Professionals

Review each tab to learn more.

Supreme Court of Nevada

Displays examples of court cases against healthcare professionals.

Piroozi, M.D., and Martin Blahnik, M.D., Petitioners, v. the eighth judicial district court of the state of Nevada, in and for the County of Clark; and the Honorable James M. Bdcler, District Judge.

Respondents: Tiffani D. Hurst; and Brian Abbington, Jointly and on Behalf of their Minor Child, Mayrose Lili–Abbington Hurst,

MHA6060: Health Law and Ethics



Please review the following case:

The defendant in State v. Cunningham, the owner, and administrator of a residential care facility housed thirty to thirty-seven mentally ill, mentally retarded, and senior residents. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals conducted various surveys at the defendant’s facility between October 1989 and May 1990. All of the surveys except one resulted in a fifty-dollar daily fine assessed against the defendant for violations of the regulations.

On August 16, 1990, a grand jury filed an indictment charging the defendant with several counts of wanton neglect of a resident in violation of the Iowa Code section 726.7 (1989), which provides, “A person commits wanton neglect of a resident of a healthcare facility when the person knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental, or moral welfare of a resident of a healthcare facility. . . . Wanton neglect of a resident of a healthcare facility is a serious misdemeanor.”

The district court held that the defendant had knowledge of the dangerous conditions that existed in the healthcare facility but willfully and consciously refused to provide or to exercise adequate supervision to remedy or attempt to remedy the dangerous conditions. The residents were exposed to physical dangers and unhealthy and unsanitary physical conditions and were grossly deprived of the much-needed medical care and personal attention.

The conditions were likely to and did cause injury to the physical and mental well-being of the facility’s residents. The defendant was found guilty on five counts of wanton neglect. The district court sentenced the defendant to one year in jail for each of the five counts, to run concurrently. The district court suspended all but two days of the defendant’s sentence and ordered him to pay $200 for each count, plus a surcharge and costs, and to perform community service. A motion for a new trial was denied, and the defendant appealed.

The Iowa Court of Appeals held that there was substantial evidence to support a finding that the defendant was responsible for not properly maintaining the nursing facility, which led to prosecution for wanton neglect of the facility’s residents. The defendant was found guilty of knowingly acting in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical or mental welfare of the facility’s residents by creating, directing, or maintaining hazardous conditions and unsafe practices.

The facility was not properly maintained (for example, findings