Patient’s Medical Malpractice Claim against Nurse and Hospital Fails
A recent decision from Justice Lococo from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice confirms the difficult odds that injured patients face when pursuing a medical malpractice claim.
Patient Suffered Stroke
In Hasselsjo v. St. Joseph’s Hospital et al, Songja Hasselsjo suffered a stroke. She sued St. Joseph’s Hospital and the nurse that treated her in the emergency department.
The case revolved around whether the nurse that attended on Ms. Hasselsjo when she was presented to the emergency room properly followed the triage process in place at the hospital. Triage means to sort or prioritize. In emergency departments the triage is the process the hospitals use to prioritize patients for medical treatment.
Rules for Triage?
Guidelines have been developed to help health care providers with the triage process. In Canada, the generally accepted guidelines are the implementation guidelines for the Canadian Emergency Department Triage and Acuity Scale.
Failure to meet Standard of Care?
The judge assessed the evidence and had to determine whether the nurse that treated Ms. Hasselsjo failed to meet the standard of care in conducting her triage examination. The judge then had to consider if there was a breach of the standard of care and did the breach cause or contribute to Ms. Hasselsjo’s stroke and subsequent disability.
As is the case in all medical malpractice claims both sides called experts to testify in support of their claim. The plaintiff’s expert testified that the nurse failed to properly triage Ms. Hasselsjo. The defendants called experts who testified that the nurse did everything required of her under the standard of care.
Paramedics Evidence Critical
In determining if there was a breach of the standard of care, the judge placed a great deal of weight on the evidence of the paramedic who brought Ms. Hasselsjo to the emergency department. It was the view of Justice Lococo that the paramedic’s evidence, as a disinterested third party, was to be preferred over that of the plaintiff.
Justice Lococo determined that, based on the paramedic’s evidence Ms. Hasselsjo was not exhibiting symptoms that would have merited being triaged at a higher level and thus receiving medical treatment faster.
Problem with Causation
The judge went on to say that even if Ms. Hasselsjo had been triaged at a more urgent level the plaintiffs failed to prove that it would have made any difference to the outcome of her injury. If there was negligence, the plaintiffs failed to prove that the negligence was the cause of Ms. Hasselsjo’s stroke.
You can read more about the challenges in establishing standard of care and proving causation in medical malpractice claims in my book, The Consumer’s Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada.
The book is for sale on Amazon. However, if you live in Atlantic Canada, we will send you a copy free if you contact us through this blog.