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October 3, 1977

Physicians' Liability for Negligence of Office Assistants and Hospital Employees

JAMA. 1977;238(14):1485-1486. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280150055007

PHYSICIANS often rely on office assistants to perform simple diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. If a physician allows an assistant to engage in activities for which he or she is not adequately trained or lacks sufficient experience, the physician is likely to be held legally responsible for any damage caused a patient. A case in point is Delaney vs Rosenthall,1 where the court said that a jury would be warranted in finding that a physician was negligent where treatment was left largely to

... [a] girl who had merely graduated from high school and had worked in a hospital as a nurses' aid for about two years.... [She] was permitted by the [physician] to treat the [patient] on at least twelve out of seventeen visits. She removed stitches, squeezed pus out of his thumb, prescribed pills, injected penicillin, removed bandages and reapplied bandages to his hand, and even advised the plaintiff