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Hospital not responsible for anesthetist who assaulted patients during surgical procedures

  The Court of Appeals recently held that  no one else was responsible for damages when a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) sexually assaulted patients undergoing surgery.

  The assaults occurred at Genesys Health System or the Caro Community Hospital, while patients were having skin surgery.  In one case, the patient awakened post-surgery with the CRNA's penis in her mouth; in the other case, another hospital employee discovered similar conduct when she entered the surgical suite during recovery.  The trial court rejected claims that an attending nurse should have reported similar conduct which she observed in 2001, because the statutory reporting requirement was meant to protect only that particular victim; not future victims.  Using the same rationalization, the Court held that the assaulted women could not criticize the surgeon for failing to report a 1998 incident.

The three judges also held that the two victims could not sue any of the doctors or hospitals who continued to employ this serial abuser.  The judges ruled that there was no "special relationship" between the victims and the doctors and hospitals, and therefore, the various doctors and hospitals owed no "duty" to the victims to protect them from the perpetrator.

     Doctors and hospitals should not have to guarantee the safety and successful treatment of their patients.  Nevertheless, they should be responsible when they have evidence that a patient is being mis-treated and they fail to act.  This case should have focused on what the people who utilized the perpeterator to pass gas knew, and when they knew it.  If they had reason to suspect that he was assaulting, or endangering, innocent and helpless victims, they should be held accountable.  Unfortunately, with the Michigan Supreme Court exercising its imagination to find ways to immunize health care providers and insurers from their own liabilities, it is a tough time to be a victim in Michigan.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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