Legal Aspect of Nursing

Negligence is the failure of a medical service provider or practitioner to fulfill his/her duty of care resulting in damage to the patient (Kwon, n.d). The hospital and its staff have a professional and legal obligation to prevent their patients from negligent or ‘preventable’ harm. In Mr. Garcia’s case, the hospital failed to take the necessary preventative measures to prevent the patient from harming himself. Mr. Garcia had admitted to both the police and the medical staff that he had intentions of harming himself. The police fulfilled their duty by taking the Mr. Garcia to the hospital. However, a case of negligent behavior can be observed when analyzing the measures taken by the hospital to prevent the patient from harming himself.

Mr. Garcia was restrained; however the measures of observation were insufficient for someone who was in his psychological status. The hospital did not provide Mr. Garcia with one on one observation, which resulted in him escaping and jumping in front of a moving vehicle. A competent doctor or hospital would have made sure that the patient is under strict observation until his psychological status is stable. This paper will analyze the elements of malpractice/negligence involved in this case. It will also analyze the parties involved and the charges they are likely to face.

The patient had previously admitted to the police and the hospital staff members that he had thoughts of harming himself. Hence the hospital’s duty of care in this situation involves preventing the patient from harming himself and providing him with adequate care until his condition stabilizes. The hospital did not perform its duties and the preventative measures where insufficient. A competent medical staff would have given the patient one on one observation; if this observation was provided the patient would not have been able to escape from the hospital surroundings. The hospital breached its duty of care by not giving Mr. Garcia adequate observation.

Regardless of the extent of damages, medical negligence is only established when the damages occur due to an event that should have been anticipated (Olson, n.d). In addition, causation factors should be established. In this case the event that caused the damages should have been anticipated as the patient had informed the hospital that he had intentions of harming himself. He was also in a confused manner when he was taken by the police to the hospital, which shows he was psychologically unstable. This should have been an indication to the hospital that the patient required constant monitoring, and they should have anticipated the events that occurred.

In this case, the patient was in custody of the police and the hospital staff. However, the police fulfilled its duties by escorting the patient to the hospital. Therefore, the defendants against the wife’s charges are the hospital facility and the staff members involved in implementing the observation method for the patient. The hospital facility is not directly responsible for the damages that occurred, however, they are vicariously liable as they are responsible for their employees. This was a negligent act by the employees who should be under supervision from the hospital; hence it is partially to blame for the patient’s escape that resulted in his death.

The staff members involved in deciding the observation method for Mr. Garcia are directly liable for the damages that occurred after his escape. They had been informed about the patient’s status, however, failed to act appropriately in order to protect the patient from himself. Instead of providing one on one observation, they simply restrained him, which was insufficient as he was likely to try and escape. The fact that no one was available to stop the patient from escaping shows negligence on the part of the hospital staff members considering the condition the patient was in.

In my opinion, both e defendants are guilty for wrongful death of the patient. They failed to provide the patient with the appropriate medical care to prevent any damages from occurring. They were aware that the patient was unstable and was not in the appropriate psychological state. However, they left the patient unattended to the point that he had a chance to escape from the hospital parameters and later go on to commit suicide. Had the correct restraining measures been taken, the patient would not have been able to escape and jump in front of a moving vehicle. Therefore, the members of staff were the cause of this accident as they did not perform their duties correctly.

A suicidal patient should also be constantly monitored. A hospital in Nebraska was fined $100 000 after a suicidal patient hung himself upon admission. This patient was taken to the hospital after cutting his own wrists and was later found dead in his room. The hospital was charged for failure to protect the patient which resulted in his death, and failure to monitor patient constantly due to his suicidal status (Mental Health Association of Nebraska, 2010)


Kwon, N., (n.d) Legal Principles in Medicine. Retrieved from

Mental Health Association of Nebraska. (2010) Hospital fined for patient suicide. Retrieved from

Olson, D., (n.d) Wrongful death cases based upon suicide: The General Rule of Unforeseeability Has Exceptions. Retrieved from