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January 27, 1984

Hospital Liability for Physician Negligence

Author Affiliations

From the Office of the General Counsel, American Medical Association. For further information and reprints, write to the Office of the General Counsel, American Medical Association, 535 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60610.

JAMA. 1984;251(4):447-448. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340280013005

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ONCE upon a time, the law recognized that hospitals were places in which physicians practiced medicine. The hospital merely furnished the facilities for the treatment that independent practitioners provided to their patients. If the physician's treatment was not up to the standard of care of the medical profession, he alone might be liable to the patient.

This article will attempt to show how our society—and American law—has departed from that former state of affairs. Hospitals have always been liable for their own negligence and the negligence of their employees. The hospital has always had the legal obligation to maintain its equipment and facilities in good condition and efficient working order. Thus, when defective equipment or supplies used in the hospital injured the patient, the hospital could be held liable. Over the years hospital equipment has become more complex, more powerful, and more sophisticated, thus requiring more careful use and maintenance.