Posts Tagged ‘medico-legal’

The Blame Game: Is It All Right to Blame the Patient?

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Nancy Collins, PhD, RDN, LD, FAPWCA, FAND

Clearly it is a legal liability when health care professionals (HCPs) do not follow doctor’s orders. But when the patient chooses not to follow doctor’s orders, things are not so clear.

The Blame Game: Is It All Right to Blame the Patient?


Most of the lawsuits I deal with have more than one named defendant. For example, the plaintiff (typically a deceased patient’s next of kin) might sue a hospital, a nursing home, and the attending physician at each facility. Sometimes they go a bit further and may even include the administrator, the director of nursing, and individual HCPs, such as the wound care nurse or the registered dietitian nutritionist.

When a lawsuit has multiple defendants, one of the main tasks is determining how much responsibility for the outcome to assign to each party. Responsibility is a nice word for blame, because that is really what we are talking about. Each defendant’s attorney will argue that their client is not to blame, which is obviously their job. What is not so obvious is that this means the attorney must deflect the blame to one of the other parties. It is truly every defendant for himself or herself.