Physicians' Liability for Negligence of Office Assistants and Hospital Employees

Wayne G. Hoppe
JAMA. 1977;238(14):1485-1486. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280150055007.
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PHYSICIANS often rely on office assistants to perform simple diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. If a physician allows an assistant to engage in activities for which he or she is not adequately trained or lacks sufficient experience, the physician is likely to be held legally responsible for any damage caused a patient. A case in point is Delaney vs Rosenthall,1 where the court said that a jury would be warranted in finding that a physician was negligent where treatment was left largely to

... [a] girl who had merely graduated from high school and had worked in a hospital as a nurses' aid for about two years.... [She] was permitted by the [physician] to treat the [patient] on at least twelve out of seventeen visits. She removed stitches, squeezed pus out of his thumb, prescribed pills, injected penicillin, removed bandages and reapplied bandages to his hand, and even advised the plaintiff


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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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