In an unreported decision of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland (“Court”) that was issued on August 29, 2014, the Court was asked to decide an indemnification issue between the medical malpractice defendants. The alleged facts, however, caught our attention because the underlying situation is commonly faced by patients who are required to undergo medical tests that are performed by health care providers whom patients have no way of knowing their qualifications or the extent of their experience with the procedures they require.
The Alleged Facts
On January 13, 2007, a mother brought her six-year-old child to the defendant health care clinic. The medical director of the health care clinic examined the child and told the mother that someone would come to draw the child’s blood for testing, after which the doctor left the room to see other patients. The medical director thought that a “lab person” of the defendant health care clinic would come and draw the child’s blood. However, a student phlebotomist gaining required experience entered the room to perform the blood draw. The mother was not told that the person performing the blood draw was a student or that she was not an employee of the health care clinic.
The mother observed the student phlebotomist stick herself with the needle and then use the same needle on her son. When the doctor returned to the examination room, the mother advised the doctor of such. The doctor confronted the student phlebotomist, who advised her that she had used a butterfly needle, that she had “grazed herself” with the needle, and that she had thrown the needle away when she saw blood on it, after which she used a second needle in an unsuccessful attempt to draw the child’s blood.
The doctor told the mother what the student phlebotomist had told her. The mother advised the doctor that she observed only one needle that was used. When the doctor checked the used needle box located in the examination room, she saw only one needle inside. When the doctor then confronted the student phlebotomist again, the student confessed that she had used the same needle on the child that she had accidentally stuck herself with. The student phlebotomist was then tested and found to be positive for Hepatitis C.
The child was tested for Hepatitis C for a period of one year after the incident. Fortunately, his testing was negative for Hepatitis C.
The mother filed a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit against the student phlebotomist and the health care clinic. The Maryland medical malpractice case was settled for $50,000.
The facts of this Maryland medical malpractice case highlight an important and troubling issue for patients: when people seek medical care, they rightfully assume that all health care providers who provide them care, including not only the nurses, physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners whom they meet face-to-face, but also all others who have any involvement with their medical care, such as phlebotomists, x-ray technicians, radiology technicians, pharmacy technicians, and lab personnel, will have the appropriate education, knowledge, experience, and qualifications to properly carry out their job requirements in order to avoid patients from suffering unnecessary harm.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or other harms as a result of a health care provider failing to provide care or services consistent with the applicable standard of care, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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