Establishing liability for harm caused to patients in a resource-deficient environment
In a resource-starved environment, liability for medical malpractice depends on whether there was intentional or negligent wrongful conduct by the parties concerned, or whether they were vicariously liable for the wrongful acts or omissions of others. Departments of health and private sector hospital bodies will be liable for the wrongful conduct of their administrators where, through maladministration, they have harmed patients by intentionally or negligently diverting funds from health care services. Such bodies cannot escape liability for harm caused to patients arising from a shortage of resources where these were caused by the intentional or negligent wrongful conduct of their administrative employees. Departments of health and private health bodies will also be vicariously liable for the intentional or negligent wrongful acts or omissions of their clinical health care and support staff. Clinicians and support staff working in a resource-starved environment, however, will be judged by the standard of how reasonably competent health care practitioners or support staff employees in the same field and faced with similar conditions would have acted.
David McQuoid-Mason, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Resources; resource-starved; malpractice; negligence; professional negligence; vicarious liability; hospitals; departments of health
Cite this article
South African Medical Journal 2010;100(9):573-575.
Date submitted: 2009-12-23
Date published: 2010-09-07
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