It’s a nightmare scenario: A patient is having surgery, and something goes wrong because his health-care provider acted negligently. The patient has rights and deserves to be compensated for his damages. But the surgeon wasn’t the only person in the room. What if someone else committed the negligent act? Does the patient have rights under the law?
Who Is A Professional Health-Care Provider Under the Law?
Medical malpractice occurs when a health-care professional or institution provides care that deviates from the expected standard of practice and subsequently harms the patient. The appropriate “standard of care” is that which medical professionals generally accept as the best practice for treating a patient. In Illinois, doctors are not the only professional health-care providers who can be liable for malpractice. The law also protects against malpractice by physician’s assistants, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists, among others.
Other examples of a professional health-care provider can be found in the operating room. Earlier this month, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a bill amending the Registered Surgical Assistant and Registered Surgical Technologist Title Protection Act. A registered surgical assistant provides services under direct supervision and “is not licensed to practice medicine in all of its branches.” A registered surgical technologist is not a physician. He or she also provides services only under direct supervision.
The answer to the question in the above hypothetical is yes. Registered surgical assistants and registered surgical technologists can be held liable for medical malpractice. They must adhere to a professional standard of care and can be disciplined if they fail to do so. The amendments to the Act affect supervision requirements, disciplinary proceedings, penalties and other administrative issues related to preventing and dealing with medical malpractice by registered surgical assistants and registered surgical technological assistants. These changes to the law take effect on December 31, 2013.
Some Amendments to the Law
1. “Gross malpractice” is one cause for disciplinary action. This is no longer limited to conduct “resulting in permanent injury or death of a patient.”
2. The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation collects information in its investigations of registered surgical assistants, registered surgical technologists and applicants to both positions. The law now requires that all collected information remain confidential.
3. When the Department conducts formal hearings related to not issuing or renewing registration, or whether or not to order disciplinary action, it must maintain records of all proceedings at its own expense. But when a registrant or applicant fails to appear or is found to have violated the Act, he or she might be required to pay the cost of the proceedings.
4. Only the Department, and not the registrant or applicant, may petition the circuit court to compel the attendance of witnesses and/or the production of relevant documents.
5. After the formal hearing, the hearing officer presents a written report of the facts, the relevant law, and his or her recommendations. Previously, the law required “that the severity of the discipline recommended bears some reasonable relationship to the severity of the violation.” The legislature eliminated this requirement.
If you are a victim of medical malpractice, contact our attorneys today to discuss your rights.