The Pennsylvania Superior Court, the state’s primary court of appeals, recently overturned the trial court below it and held that physicians in Pennsylvania can now be held liable for medical malpractice if the physician suspects that a child has been abused and then fails to report it. The Court made clear that physicians in Pennsylvania owe a duty of reasonable care to their patients, something that is paramount to the physician-patient relationship. The opinion noted that whether a particular physician meets that duty of care will be decided on a case by case basis by a judge or jury. The court concluded their holding by quoting the Hippocratic Oath, which each physician is sworn to protect, and the oath’s recognition of the importance of considering a patient’s family situation when treating a young patient.
On the other hand, the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, also referred to as the “Child Abuse Law,” does not specifically give a person the right to sue a physician for malpractice in civil court for failing to report suspected child abuse. Instead, the Child Abuse Law requires any licensed health care practitioner who has a reason to suspect that a child has been abused to immediately report the abuse to the Department of Human Services. Additionally, the Child Abuse Law can charge a healthcare practitioner with a second degree misdemeanor if they willfully fail to report suspected child abuse. If the child abuse is extremely severe, the practitioner could be charged with a third degree felony.
With the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s recent holding, not only can a health care practitioner be charged criminally for failing to report suspected child abuse but they can also now be charged personally in civil court. The Court’s opinion also puts hospitals, medical practices and health care institutions on high alert. In their holding, the Court ruled that medical establishments may be held liable if they do not have policies and procedures in place that reduce the likelihood of child abuse going unreported – specifically making a patient’s past and current record available to its physicians so that patterns of child abuse are easier to catch.
Philadelphia Health Care Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates Represent Physicians Facing Litigation
Medical malpractice accusations against physicians or medical personnel are not to be taken lightly. Without an experienced team of Philadelphia health care lawyers, a physician can now face both civil and criminal liability, in addition to the loss of their license to practice medicine. If you have been accused of medical malpractice or any other health care violation, our seasoned Philadelphia health care lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates understand all facets health care law. Call us at 215-569-1999 or submit an online form to schedule a free consultation in our Philadelphia offices, where we serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.