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NY: Failure to `Understand' - Pt. Overdoses: Do Your Pts. `Understand' You? Are You Sure?

CASE FACTS: Farrukah Sheikh suffered from a self-administered overdose of medication which caused his collapse. The patient admitted that he ingested approximately three times the prescribed dosage of hydrochlorothiazide. However he attributed this to a "misunderstanding" since he allegedly did not understand the physician's directions for the medication. The patient brought suit for medical malpractice against Dr. Sinha. The Supreme Court, Kings County, granted Dr. Sinha's motion for summary judgment. The patient appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, held that: (1) the patient failed to show that the physician's actions were the proximate cause of the patient's injury; (2) the patient's failure to object to a deposition proceeding in the absence of an interpreter operated as a waiver of his claim that he did not "understand" questions he was asked; (3) the patient's attempt to amend the transcript of his deposition was untimely. The court was satisfied that the defendant physician made a prima facie showing of his entitlement to judgment in his favor as a matter of law. The burden then shifted to the patient to lay bare his proof and demonstrate the existence of a triable issue of fact. That required a showing that the defendant physician departed from accepted medical practice as well as a nexus between the alleged malpractice and the patient's injury. The affidavit submitted by the defendant physician's expert in support of his motion referred to the patient's admission that he ingested three times the prescribed dosage of the medication. The expert concluded that it was this self-administered overdose which caused the patient's collapse. Since the patient's expert failed to address this issue, the patient failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendant physician's actions were the proximate cause of the patient's injury. The court further noted that the patient's failure to object to the deposition proceeding in the absence of an interpreter operated as a waiver of his claim that he did not "understand" the questions he was asked. Nurses should take note of this case. Although the case involved a medical malpractice suit against a physician the precipitating factor was the failure of the patient to "understand." With the tremendous influx of non-English speaking people into today's society virtually all health care providers, especially nurses, are commonly confronted with patients who do not "understand" English. In many cases, patients will indicate they understand English when, in fact, they do not. This is a recipe for disaster! Sheikh v. Sinha, 707 N.Y.S.2d 241 - NY (2000)

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for nearly 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Providence, R.I., firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Reagan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers and Marquis Who's Who in American Law.
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Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Nursing Law's Regan Report
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:543
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