Solidum vs People (GR No. 192123 March 10, 2014)

Solidum vs People of the Philippines
GR No. 192123 March 10, 2014

Facts: Gerald Albert Gercayo was born on June 2, 1992 with an imperforate anus. Two days after his birth, Gerald under went colostomy, a surgical procedure to bring one end of the large intestine out through the abdominal walls, enabling him to excrete through a colostomy bag attached to the side of his body. On May 17, 1995, Gerald was admitted at the Ospital ng Maynila for a pull-through operation. Dr. Leandro Resurreccionheaded the surgical team, and was assisted by Dr. Joselito Lucerio, Dr.Donatella Valeria and Dr. Joseph Tibio. The anesthesiologist included Drs. Abella, Razon and Solidum. During the operation, Gerald experienced bradycardia and went into a coma. His coma lasted for two weeks , but he regained consciousness only after a month. He could no longer see, hear, or move. A complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries were filed by Gerald’s parents against the team of doctors alleging that there was failure in monitoring the anesthesia administered to Gerald.

Issues: Whether or not petitioner is liable for medical negligence.

Whether or not res ipsa liquitor can be resorted to in medical negligence cases.

Held: No. Negligence is defined as the failure to observe for the protection of the interests of another person that degree of care, precaution, and vigilance that the circumstances justly demand, whereby such other person suffers injury. Reckless imprudence, on the other hand, consists of voluntarily doing or failing to do, without malice, an act from which material damage results by reason of an inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person to perform or failing to perform such act.

The negligence must be the proximate cause of the injury. For, negligence no matter in what it consists, cannot create a right of action unless it is the proximate cause of the injury complained of. And the proximate cause of an injury is that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence and unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.

An action upon medical negligence – whether criminal, civil or administrative – calls for the plaintiff to prove by competent evidence each of the following four elements namely: a.) the duty owed by the physician to the patient, as created by the physician-patient relationship, to act in accordance with the specific norms or standards established by his profession; b.) the breach of the duty by the physician’s failing to act in accordance with the applicable standard of care; c.) the causation, is, there must be a reasonably close and casual connection between the negligent act or omission and the resulting injury; and d.) the damages suffered by the patient.

In the medical profession, specific norms on standard of care to protect the patient against unreasonable risk, commonly referred to as standards of care, set the duty of the physician in respect of the patient. The standard of care is an objective standard which conduct of a physician sued for negligence or malpractice may be measured, and it does not depend therefore, on any individual’s physician’s own knowledge either. In attempting to fix a standard by which a court may determine whether the physician has properly performed the requisite duty toward the patient, expert medical testimony from both plaintiff and defense experts is required.

The doctrine of res ipsa liquitor means that where the thing which causes injury is shown to be under the management of the defendant, and the accident is such as in ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have management use proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of an explanation by defendant that the accident arose from want of care.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the scope of res ipsa liquitor has been measurably enlarged, it does not automatically apply to all cases of medical negligence as to mechanically shift the burden of proof to the defendant to show that he is not guilty of the ascribed negligence. Res ipsa liquitor is not a rigid or ordinary doctrine to be perfunctorily used but a rule to be cautiously applied, depending upon the circumstances of each case. It is generally restricted to situations in malpractice cases where a layman is able to say, as a matter of common knowledge and observation, that the consequences of professional care were not as such as would ordinarily have followed if due care had been exercised. A distinction must be made between the failure to secure results, and the occurrence of something more unusual and not ordinarily found if the service or treatment rendered followed the usual procedure of those skilled in that particular practice. It must be conceded that the doctrine of res ipsa liquitor can have no application in a suit against a physician or surgeon which involves the merits of a diagnosis or of a scientific treatment. The physician or surgeon is not required at his peril to explain why any particular diagnosis was not correct, or why any particular scientific treatment did not produce the desired results. Thus, res ipsa liquitor is not available in a malpractice suit if the only showing is that the desired result of an operation or treatment was not accomplished. The real question, therefore, is whether or not in the process of the operation any extraordinary incident or unusual event outside the routine performance occurred which is beyond the regular scope of customary professional activity in such operations, which if unexplained would themselves reasonably speak to the average man as the negligent case or causes of the untoward consequence. If there was such extraneous intervention, the doctrine of res ipsa liquitor may be utilized and the dependent is called upon to explain the matter, by evidence of exculpation, if he could.

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