Case Study: Ethical and Legal Perspectives in Health Care

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Ybarra vs. Spangard Case Study

The issue of negligence is of paramount importance within a capitalistic societal structure, because as citizens engage in the open exchange of services, the party conducting commercial activities, medicinal practice, or other specialized activities bears a certain responsibility in terms of adhering to a basic standard of conduct. American jurisprudence provides for a clear system of determination when allegations of negligence are claimed, requiring four distinct elements (Duty, Dereliction, Direct Cause, Damages) to be met before a judgment of negligent action can be rendered. One of the fundamental doctrines within the common law construction of negligence statutes, and the standards used by courts to judiciously apply them, is known as res ipsa loquitur; a legal precept derived from the Latin for "the thing itself speaks" which holds that duty of care and breach can be evidenced solely from the actions of a negligent party, without direct evidence needing to be presented within the court.

In the realm of modern common law, negligence is defined as "conduct falling below the standard of care that a reasonable person would demonstrate under similar conditions" (Aspen Publishers, 2006), and one case which illustrates the extent to which the standard of reasonable care must be met is that of Ybarra vs. Spangard, 25 Cal.2d 486, 154 P.2d 687 (Cal.1944). In this landmark negligence case, "the plaintiff was injured during a medical procedure while he was unconscious ... (and) due to his unconscious state the plaintiff was not in a position to possess knowledge regarding the cause of the injury, while the defendants were especially well positioned in this regard, having been in the operating room when the injury occurred" (Hetcher, 2013), and under the unique circumstances presented, the court applied the precedent of res ipsa loquitur when crafting its ruling in favor of the plaintiff.

Within the American judicial system it is necessary to differentiate between actions committed by an individual which cause suffering, harm or loss to another person, and those which cause injury to society at large. The latter case, in which a crime affects the general public interest, is encompassed by the expansive United States criminal code, while the more delicate issue of determining liability in personal disputes is covered by the country's civil court system and its unique system of addressing torts. The legal term tort is derived from the Middle English for injury and has become entrenched in common law jurisdictions as a viable means to settle legal disagreements between two parties. Today tort law is the preferred tool with which judges, courts and magistrates apportion responsibility for an array of injurious actions, such as breach of contract, dereliction of duty, negligence, defamation of character and neighborly nuisance. In the event that a particular party is found to be liable for unfairly causing the aggrieved party any form of legal injury, tort law typically mandates that damages be recompensed in the form of monetary compensation. This practice has proven especially necessary in instances where a company or corporation neglects to adhere to regulatory statutes, inflicting legal injury on its customer base in the process, by providing ordinary citizens with a direct avenue to petition the court for redress. Another primary mandate of the civil court's system of tort law is to discourage individual negligence by holding a person accountable for negligence, recklessness or inattentiveness in the social realm by requiring an adherence to the standard of reasonable care.

1.) Which form of negligence best fits this case?

In the case of Ybarra vs. Spangard, the plaintiff successfully "sued Drs. R, S, and T. under a doctrine of negligence known as res ipsa loquitur ... (because) the paralysis was not an event that would normally occur in an operation for an appendectomy except for negligence" (pg. 18). The form of negligence that best fits this case is conduct below the standard of care, because the plaintiff's arm injury clearly satisfied the three requirements of for res ipsa loquitur to be rightfully invoked as per the Wisconsin court in Ryan v. Zweck-Wollenberg Co.: "(1) the accident must be of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone's negligence; (2) it must be caused by an… [END OF PREVIEW]

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