Holding A Doctor Liability For Medical Malpractice Caused By A Resident

Medical Malpractice Mistakes

July is medical malpractice season in teaching hospitals.  It is known as the “July Effect” and it is a statistically correlated truth that there is more medical malpractice that occurs in July in teaching hospitals than other hospitals in July or in the teaching hospital in other months.  This is purely because of the influx of medical students becoming fledgling residents and beginning to practice medicine.  This is also coupled by the new round of nurses entering the workforce in May, June, and July which are not as experienced.

This inexperience breeds mistakes.  Less qualified nurses mean less mistakes by residents are caught and corrected.  We all know that a good nurse will catch many mistakes and almost monitor a new resident to correct mistakes.  But the new nurses will not be as experienced and able to catch these mistakes and more injuries to patients will occur.

Generally, a resident cannot be liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.  After all, they are not a doctor yet until their residency is over.  Thus, it means that they have to be under a supervising doctor.  It is that doctor that is liable for the medical malpractice.  That doctor is the one that bills for the services after all, even though the resident does most of the work.  For instance, in a surgery the doctor will be there for several “critical” moments of the surgery, but the surgeon will likely not be performing most of the procedures—the surgical resident will.  But the surgeon gets paid for the work!

This advantage by the surgeon is just gained after paying his or her dues in working as a resident for several years.  But that does not mean it is right or that the surgeon will avoid medical malpractice claims when a resident makes a mistake.

In addition to a doctor who supervises the resident being liable, the teaching hospital and the teaching college supporting the resident may also be liable.  That is because it is their resident and their teaching that is occurring.