Monday, February 8, 2010

Medical tort

In the very fresh resolution of the Philippine Supreme Court in a medical tort/malpractice case entitled PROFESSIONAL SERVICES, INC. vs. Court of Appeals, et.al., En Banc, GR No. 126297, February 2, 2010; NATIVIDAD and ENRIQUE AGANA vs. CA, et. al., En Banc, GR NO. 126467, February 2, 2010; MIGUEL AMPIL vs. Natividad and Enrique Roque, En Banc, G.R. No. 127590, February 2, 2010, the Court, while affirming the existing doctrine that hospitals as a general rule are not civilly liable for the tortuous acts of their medical consultants in view of the absence of an employer-employee relationship between, nonetheless made the following pro hac vice doctrinal pronouncements on the liability of the respondent hospital based on the doctrines of “ostensible agency” and “corporate negligence”, thus:

1. After gathering its thoughts on the issues, this Court holds that PSI is liable to the Aganas, not under the principle of respondeat superior for lack of evidence of an employment relationship with Dr. Ampil but under the principle of ostensible agency for the negligence of Dr. Ampil and, pro hac vice, under the principle of corporate negligence for its failure to perform its duties as a hospital.

2. While in theory a hospital as a juridical entity cannot practice medicine, in reality it utilizes doctors, surgeons and medical practitioners in the conduct of its business of facilitating medical and surgical treatment. Within that reality, three legal relationships crisscross: (1) between the hospital and the doctor practicing within its premises; (2) between the hospital and the patient being treated or examined within its premises and (3) between the patient and the doctor. The exact nature of each relationship determines the basis and extent of the liability of the hospital for the negligence of the doctor.

3. Where an employment relationship exists, the hospital may be held vicariously liable under Article 2176 in relation to Article 2180 of the Civil Code or the principle of respondeat superior. Even when no employment relationship exists but it is shown that the hospital holds out to the patient that the doctor is its agent, the hospital may still be vicariously liable under Article 2176 in relation to Article 1431 and Article 1869 of the Civil Code or the principle of apparent authority. Moreover, regardless of its relationship with the doctor, the hospital may be held directly liable to the patient for its own negligence or failure to follow established standard of conduct to which it should conform as a corporation.

4. This Court still employs the “control test” to determine the existence of an employer-employee relationship between hospital and doctor. In Calamba Medical Center, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, et al. it held:

Under the "control test", an employment relationship exists between a physician and a hospital if the hospital controls both the means and the details of the process by which the physician is to accomplish his task.

xx xx xx

As priorly stated, private respondents maintained specific work-schedules, as determined by petitioner through its medical director, which consisted of 24-hour shifts totaling forty-eight hours each week and which were strictly to be observed under pain of administrative sanctions.

That petitioner exercised control over respondents gains light from the undisputed fact that in the emergency room, the operating room, or any department or ward for that matter, respondents' work is monitored through its nursing supervisors, charge nurses and orderlies. Without the approval or consent of petitioner or its medical director, no operations can be undertaken in those areas. For control test to apply, it is not essential for the employer to actually supervise the performance of duties of the employee, it being enough that it has the right to wield the power. (emphasis supplied)


5. Nonetheless, to allay the anxiety of the intervenors, the Court holds that, in this particular instance, the concurrent finding of the RTC and the CA that PSI was not the employer of Dr. Ampil is correct. Control as a determinative factor in testing the employer-employee relationship between doctor and hospital under which the hospital could be held vicariously liable to a patient in medical negligence cases is a requisite fact to be established by preponderance of evidence. Here, there was insufficient evidence that PSI exercised the power of control or wielded such power over the means and the details of the specific process by which Dr. Ampil applied his skills in the treatment of Natividad. Consequently, PSI cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligence of Dr. Ampil under the principle of respondeat superior.

6. There is, however, ample evidence that the hospital (PSI) held out to the patient (Natividad) that the doctor (Dr. Ampil) was its agent. Present are the two factors that determine apparent authority: first, the hospital's implied manifestation to the patient which led the latter to conclude that the doctor was the hospital's agent; and second, the patient’s reliance upon the conduct of the hospital and the doctor, consistent with ordinary care and prudence.


7. Clearly, the decision made by Enrique for Natividad to consult Dr. Ampil was significantly influenced by the impression that Dr. Ampil was a staff member of Medical City General Hospital, and that said hospital was well known and prominent. Enrique looked upon Dr. Ampil not as independent of but as integrally related to Medical City.

8. The Court cannot speculate on what could have been behind the Aganas’ decision but would rather adhere strictly to the fact that, under the circumstances at that time, Enrique decided to consult Dr. Ampil for he believed him to be a staff member of a prominent and known hospital. After his meeting with Dr. Ampil, Enrique advised his wife Natividad to go to the Medical City General Hospital to be examined by said doctor, and the hospital acted in a way that fortified Enrique's belief. This Court must therefore maintain the ruling that PSI is vicariously liable for the negligence of Dr. Ampil as its ostensible agent.

9. PSI reiterated its admission when it stated that had Natividad Agana “informed the hospital of her discomfort and pain, the hospital would have been obliged to act on it.” The significance of the foregoing statements is critical.

First, they constitute judicial admission by PSI that while it had no power to control the means or method by which Dr. Ampil conducted the surgery on Natividad Agana, it had the power to review or cause the review of what may have irregularly transpired within its walls strictly for the purpose of determining whether some form of negligence may have attended any procedure done inside its premises, with the ultimate end of protecting its patients.

Second, it is a judicial admission that, by virtue of the nature of its business as well as its prominence in the hospital industry, it assumed a duty to “tread on” the “captain of the ship” role of any doctor rendering services within its premises for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the patients availing themselves of its services and facilities.

Third, by such admission, PSI defined the standards of its corporate conduct under the circumstances of this case, specifically: (a) that it had a corporate duty to Natividad even after her operation to ensure her safety as a patient; (b) that its corporate duty was not limited to having its nursing staff note or record the two missing gauzes and (c) that its corporate duty extended to determining Dr. Ampil's role in it, bringing the matter to his attention, and correcting his negligence.

And finally, by such admission, PSI barred itself from arguing in its second motion for reconsideration that the concept of corporate responsibility was not yet in existence at the time Natividad underwent treatment; and that if it had any corporate responsibility, the same was limited to reporting the missing gauzes and did not include “taking an active step in fixing the negligence committed.” An admission made in the pleading cannot be controverted by the party making such admission and is conclusive as to him, and all proofs submitted by him contrary thereto or inconsistent therewith should be ignored, whether or not objection is interposed by a party.

10. PSI excuses itself from fulfilling its corporate duty on the ground that Dr. Ampil assumed the personal responsibility of informing Natividad about the two missing gauzes. Dr. Ricardo Jocson, who was part of the group of doctors that attended to Natividad, testified that toward the end of the surgery, their group talked about the missing gauzes but Dr. Ampil assured them that he would personally notify the patient about it. Furthermore, PSI claimed that there was no reason for it to act on the report on the two missing gauzes because Natividad Agana showed no signs of complications. She did not even inform the hospital about her discomfort. The excuses proffered by PSI are totally unacceptable.

11. To begin with, PSI could not simply wave off the problem and nonchalantly delegate to Dr. Ampil the duty to review what transpired during the operation. The purpose of such review would have been to pinpoint when, how and by whom two surgical gauzes were mislaid so that necessary remedial measures could be taken to avert any jeopardy to Natividad’s recovery. Certainly, PSI could not have expected that purpose to be achieved by merely hoping that the person likely to have mislaid the gauzes might be able to retrace his own steps. By its own standard of corporate conduct, PSI's duty to initiate the review was non-delegable.

12. While Dr. Ampil may have had the primary responsibility of notifying Natividad about the missing gauzes, PSI imposed upon itself the separate and independent responsibility of initiating the inquiry into the missing gauzes. The purpose of the first would have been to apprise Natividad of what transpired during her surgery, while the purpose of the second would have been to pinpoint any lapse in procedure that led to the gauze count discrepancy, so as to prevent a recurrence thereof and to determine corrective measures that would ensure the safety of Natividad. That Dr. Ampil negligently failed to notify Natividad did not release PSI from its self-imposed separate responsibility.

13. Corollary to its non-delegable undertaking to review potential incidents of negligence committed within its premises, PSI had the duty to take notice of medical records prepared by its own staff and submitted to its custody, especially when these bear earmarks of a surgery gone awry. Thus, the record taken during the operation of Natividad which reported a gauze count discrepancy should have given PSI sufficient reason to initiate a review. It should not have waited for Natividad to complain.

14. As it happened, PSI took no heed of the record of operation and consequently did not initiate a review of what transpired during Natividad’s operation. Rather, it shirked its responsibility and passed it on to others – to Dr. Ampil whom it expected to inform Natividad, and to Natividad herself to complain before it took any meaningful step. By its inaction, therefore, PSI failed its own standard of hospital care. It committed corporate negligence.

15. It should be borne in mind that the corporate negligence ascribed to PSI is different from the medical negligence attributed to Dr. Ampil. The duties of the hospital are distinct from those of the doctor-consultant practicing within its premises in relation to the patient; hence, the failure of PSI to fulfill its duties as a hospital corporation gave rise to a direct liability to the Aganas distinct from that of Dr. Ampil.

16. All this notwithstanding, we make it clear that PSI’s hospital liability based on ostensible agency and corporate negligence applies only to this case, pro hac vice. It is not intended to set a precedent and should not serve as a basis to hold hospitals liable for every form of negligence of their doctors-consultants under any and all circumstances. The ruling is unique to this case, for the liability of PSI arose from an implied agency with Dr. Ampil and an admitted corporate duty to Natividad.


The Court thus made the following orders, to wit:

“WHEREFORE, the second motion for reconsideration is DENIED and the motions for intervention are NOTED.

Professional Services, Inc. is ORDERED pro hac vice to pay Natividad (substituted by her children Marcelino Agana III, Enrique Agana, Jr., Emma Agana-Andaya, Jesus Agana and Raymund Agana) and Enrique Agana the total amount of P15 million, subject to 12% p.a. interest from the finality of this resolution to full satisfaction.

No further pleadings by any party shall be entertained in this case.

Let the long-delayed entry of judgment be made in this case upon receipt by all concerned parties of this resolution.

SO ORDERED.”



READ BELOW THE SALIENT PARTS OF THE RELATED NEWS AND PREVIOUS DECISIONS AND RESOLUTIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT.


SC rules hospital also liable, must pay P15M for surgeon’s error
By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:20:00 02/05/2010


MANILA, Philippines—In a major decision on medical malpractice, the Supreme Court has found a hospital equally liable for the negligence of one of its doctor-consultants who left two pieces of gauze inside his patient’s body during surgery in 1984.

Affirming its earlier rulings, the high court ordered the owners of The Medical City in Pasig City to pay the heirs of Natividad Agana P15 million.

But the court said this should not be considered a precedent-setting case for other hospitals being sued for negligence of doctors.

Nina Posadas, Medical City manager for corporate communications, said the hospital could not comment on the issue without reviewing the Supreme Court decision.

Inaction

In a ruling penned by Associate Justice Renato Corona, the court en banc said “by its inaction the [Professional Services Inc.] failed its own standard of hospital care. It committed corporate negligence.”

From the original P3 million in damages awarded to the victim’s heirs, the high court increased the amount to P15 million subject to a 12 percent annual interest from the finality of the resolution until its full satisfaction.

Records showed that Dr. Miguel Ampil performed surgery on Agana on April 11, 1984, to treat her cancer of the sigmoid (a part of the large intestine).

After being discharged from the hospital, Agana complained of pain but was told by Ampil that it was the natural consequence of the surgery.

Months later, Agana’s daughter found a piece of gauze protruding from her mother’s vagina. Ampil supposedly extracted by hand a piece of gauze and assured Agana that the pain would vanish.

Badly infected vagina

However, when the pain intensified Agana sought treatment at the Polymedic General Hospital where a doctor found another gauze which had already badly infected her vaginal vault.

Another surgery

She underwent another surgery and then filed a complaint against Ampil and the hospital for negligence and for later concealing their acts of negligence.

Agana died in 1986 while the civil suit was still pending before the lower courts. The Supreme Court decision did not say whether her death was related to the flawed surgery.

On Jan. 31, 2007, the Supreme Court’s first division affirmed the lower courts’ rulings that the doctor’s negligence was the proximate cause of her injury because he closed the incision even if the attending nurses had already informed him that two pieces of gauze were still missing.
As the owner and operator of Medical City, Professional Services Inc. (PSI) was also held liable since it supposedly did not investigate the case of the missing gauze.

Other hospitals intervene

The ruling became final on Feb. 11, 2008, but Manila Medical Services Inc., Asian Hospital and the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines moved to intervene, saying the decision “will jeopardize the financial viability of private hospitals” and jack up the cost of health care.

PSI also appealed that the case be referred to the court en banc, reiterating that it did not have an employment relationship with Ampil who it said was only a consultant.

The case was elevated to the court en banc.

Corporate negligence

In its decision dated Feb. 2, 2010, the Supreme Court said the hospital was also liable “under the principle of ostensible agency for the negligence of Doctor Ampil and, pro hac vice, under the principle of corporate negligence for its failure to perform its duties as a hospital.”

The high court took as a judicial admission PSI’s statement that had the patient “informed the hospital of her discomfort and pain, the hospital would have been obligated to act on it.”

“While it had no power to control the means or methods by which Doctor Ampil conducted the surgery on Natividad Agana, it had the power to review or cause the review of what may have irregularly transpired within its walls,” it said.

Captain of the ship

The tribunal added: “By virtue of the nature of its business as well as its prominence in the hospital industry, it (PSI) assumed a duty to tread on the ‘captain-of-the-ship’ role of any doctor rendering services within its premises for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the patients availing themselves of its services and facilities.”

In increasing the award from P3 million to P15 million, the Supreme Court took note of the family’s suffering.

Hemmed and hawed

“Such wretchedness could have been avoided had PSI simply done what was logical: Heed the report of a gauze-count discrepancy, initiate a review of what went wrong and take corrective measures to ensure the safety of Agana. Rather, for 26 years, PSI hemmed and hawed at every turn, disowning any such responsibility to its patient,” it said.

But the high court stressed that the case was not intended as a precedent and should not serve as a basis to hold hospitals liable for every form of negligence of their doctor-consultants.

“All this notwithstanding, we make it clear that PSI’s hospital liability based on ostensible agency and corporate negligence applies only to this case, pro hac vice,” the court said.

It added that the ruling was “unique to the case” because “the liability of PSI arose from an implied agency with Doctor Ampil and an admitted corporate duty to the patient Natividad Agana.” With a report from Beverly T. Natividad


See:
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100205-251371/SC-rules-hospital-also-liable-must-pay-P15M-for-surgeons-error


Read below the 2008 press release of the Supreme Court on the same case:


Hospital, doctor liable for medical negligence

THE SUPREME COURT has upheld the solidary liability of the owners of the Medical City General Hospital and Dr. Miguel Ampil, a member of its surgical staff, amounting to over Php3 million for medical negligence for leaving behind two pieces of gauze inside a cancer patient’s body during surgery in 1984.

In a decision penned by Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, the Court’s First Division affirmed the Court of Appeals’ September 6, 1996 decision affirming with modification the March 17, 1993 decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Branch 96 and nullifying the RTC’s order dated September 21, 1993. The Court held both the Professional Services, Inc. (PSI), owner of the Medical City Hospital, and Dr. Ampil liable for the injury sustained by Natividad Agana.

The Court said Dr. Ampil’s negligence was the proximate cause of Natividad’s injury, which could be traced from his act of closing the incision despite the information given by the attending nurses that two pieces of gauze were still missing. It found that Dr. Ampil did not inform Natividad about the two missing pieces of gauze. Worse, he even misled her that the pain she experienced after the procedure was the ordinary consequence of her operation. Natividad died in 1986. “To our mind, what was initially an act of negligence by Dr. Ampil has ripened into a deliberate wrongful act of deceiving his patient…This is a clear case of medical malpractice or more appropriately, medical negligence,” the Court said.

Citing Ramos v. CA, the Court said that PSI was liable since an employer-employee relationship exists between PSI and Dr. Ampil. By accrediting Dr. Ampil and publicly advertising his qualifications, the hospital created the impression that Dr. Ampil was its agent, authorized to perform medical or surgical services for its patients, it added.

(Professional Services, Inc v. Agana and Agana, GR No. 126297; Agana, et al. v. Fuentes, GR No. 126467; Ampil v. Agana and Agana; GR No. 127590; January 31, 2007; Resolution on Motion for Reconsideration, dated February 11, 2008).

See:
http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/publications/courtnews/2007/02/020707.php


2007 Decision

Professional Services, Inc v. Agana and Agana, GR No. 126297; Agana, et al. v. Fuentes, GR No. 126467; Ampil v. Agana and Agana; GR No. 127590; January 31, 2007

Hospitals, having undertaken one of mankind’s most important and delicate endeavors, must assume the grave responsibility of pursuing it with appropriate care. The care and service dispensed through this high trust, however technical, complex and esoteric its character may be, must meet standards of responsibility commensurate with the undertaking to preserve and protect the health, and indeed, the very lives of those placed in the hospital’s keeping.
Assailed in these three consolidated petitions for review on certiorari is the Court of Appeals’ Decision dated September 6, 1996 in CA-G.R. CV No. 42062 and CA-G.R. SP No. 32198 affirming with modification the Decision dated March 17, 1993 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 96, Quezon City in Civil Case No. Q-43322 and nullifying its Order dated September 21, 1993.
The facts, as culled from the records, are:
On April 4, 1984, Natividad Agana was rushed to the Medical City General Hospital (Medical City Hospital) because of difficulty of bowel movement and bloody anal discharge. After a series of medical examinations, Dr. Miguel Ampil, petitioner in G.R. No. 127590, diagnosed her to be suffering from “cancer of the sigmoid.”
On April 11, 1984, Dr. Ampil, assisted by the medical staff of the Medical City Hospital, performed an anterior resection surgery on Natividad. He found that the malignancy in her sigmoid area had spread on her left ovary, necessitating the removal of certain portions of it. Thus, Dr. Ampil obtained the consent of Natividad’s husband, Enrique Agana, to permit Dr. Juan Fuentes, respondent in G.R. No. 126467, to perform hysterectomy on her.
After Dr. Fuentes had completed the hysterectomy, Dr. Ampil took over, completed the operation and closed the incision.
However, the operation appeared to be flawed. In the corresponding Record of Operation dated April 11, 1984, the attending nurses entered these remarks:
“sponge count lacking 2
“announced to surgeon searched (sic) done but to no avail continue for closure.”

On April 24, 1984, Natividad was released from the hospital. Her hospital and medical bills, including the doctors’ fees, amounted to P60,000.00.
After a couple of days, Natividad complained of excruciating pain in her anal region. She consulted both Dr. Ampil and Dr. Fuentes about it. They told her that the pain was the natural consequence of the surgery. Dr. Ampil then recommended that she consult an oncologist to examine the cancerous nodes which were not removed during the operation.
On May 9, 1984, Natividad, accompanied by her husband, went to the United States to seek further treatment. After four months of consultations and laboratory examinations, Natividad was told she was free of cancer. Hence, she was advised to return to the Philippines.
On August 31, 1984, Natividad flew back to the Philippines, still suffering from pains. Two weeks thereafter, her daughter found a piece of gauze protruding from her vagina. Upon being informed about it, Dr. Ampil proceeded to her house where he managed to extract by hand a piece of gauze measuring 1.5 inches in width. He then assured her that the pains would soon vanish.
Dr. Ampil’s assurance did not come true. Instead, the pains intensified, prompting Natividad to seek treatment at the Polymedic General Hospital. While confined there, Dr. Ramon Gutierrez detected the presence of another foreign object in her vagina -- a foul-smelling gauze measuring 1.5 inches in width which badly infected her vaginal vault. A recto-vaginal fistula had formed in her reproductive organs which forced stool to excrete through the vagina. Another surgical operation was needed to remedy the damage. Thus, in October 1984, Natividad underwent another surgery.
On November 12, 1984, Natividad and her husband filed with the RTC, Branch 96, Quezon City a complaint for damages against the Professional Services, Inc. (PSI), owner of the Medical City Hospital, Dr. Ampil, and Dr. Fuentes, docketed as Civil Case No. Q-43322. They alleged that the latter are liable for negligence for leaving two pieces of gauze inside Natividad’s body and malpractice for concealing their acts of negligence.
Meanwhile, Enrique Agana also filed with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) an administrative complaint for gross negligence and malpractice against Dr. Ampil and Dr. Fuentes, docketed as Administrative Case No. 1690. The PRC Board of Medicine heard the case only with respect to Dr. Fuentes because it failed to acquire jurisdiction over Dr. Ampil who was then in the United States.
On February 16, 1986, pending the outcome of the above cases, Natividad died and was duly substituted by her above-named children (the Aganas).
On March 17, 1993, the RTC rendered its Decision in favor of the Aganas, finding PSI, Dr. Ampil and Dr. Fuentes liable for negligence and malpractice, the decretal part of which reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered for the plaintiffs ordering the defendants PROFESSIONAL SERVICES, INC., DR. MIGUEL AMPIL and DR. JUAN FUENTES to pay to the plaintiffs, jointly and severally, except in respect of the award for exemplary damages and the interest thereon which are the liabilities of defendants Dr. Ampil and Dr. Fuentes only, as follows:

1. As actual damages, the following amounts:

a. The equivalent in Philippine Currency of the total of US$19,900.00 at the rate of P21.60-US$1.00, as reimbursement of actual expenses incurred in the United States of America;

b. The sum of P4,800.00 as travel taxes of plaintiffs and their physician daughter;

c. The total sum of P45,802.50, representing the cost of hospitalization at Polymedic Hospital, medical fees, and cost of the saline solution;

2. As moral damages, the sum of P2,000,000.00;

3. As exemplary damages, the sum of P300,000.00;

4. As attorney’s fees, the sum of P250,000.00;

5. Legal interest on items 1 (a), (b), and (c); 2; and 3 hereinabove, from date of filing of the complaint until full payment; and

6. Costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.


Aggrieved, PSI, Dr. Fuentes and Dr. Ampil interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 42062.
X x x.
Meanwhile, on January 23, 1995, the PRC Board of Medicine rendered its Decision in Administrative Case No. 1690 dismissing the case against Dr. Fuentes. The Board held that the prosecution failed to show that Dr. Fuentes was the one who left the two pieces of gauze inside Natividad’s body; and that he concealed such fact from Natividad.
On September 6, 1996, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision jointly disposing of CA-G.R. CV No. 42062 and CA-G.R. SP No. 32198, thus:
WHEREFORE, except for the modification that the case against defendant-appellant Dr. Juan Fuentes is hereby DISMISSED, and with the pronouncement that defendant-appellant Dr. Miguel Ampil is liable to reimburse defendant-appellant Professional Services, Inc., whatever amount the latter will pay or had paid to the plaintiffs-appellees, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED and the instant appeal DISMISSED.

Concomitant with the above, the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by herein defendant-appellant Dr. Juan Fuentes in CA-G.R. SP No. 32198 is hereby GRANTED and the challenged order of the respondent judge dated September 21, 1993, as well as the alias writ of execution issued pursuant thereto are hereby NULLIFIED and SET ASIDE. The bond posted by the petitioner in connection with the writ of preliminary injunction issued by this Court on November 29, 1993 is hereby cancelled.

Costs against defendants-appellants Dr. Miguel Ampil and Professional Services, Inc.

SO ORDERED.

Only Dr. Ampil filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied in a Resolution dated December 19, 1996.
Hence, the instant consolidated petitions.
In G.R. No. 126297, PSI alleged in its petition that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that: (1) it is estopped from raising the defense that Dr. Ampil is not its employee; (2) it is solidarily liable with Dr. Ampil; and (3) it is not entitled to its counterclaim against the Aganas. PSI contends that Dr. Ampil is not its employee, but a mere consultant or independent contractor. As such, he alone should answer for his negligence.
In G.R. No. 126467, the Aganas maintain that the Court of Appeals erred in finding that Dr. Fuentes is not guilty of negligence or medical malpractice, invoking the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. They contend that the pieces of gauze are prima facie proofs that the operating surgeons have been negligent.
Finally, in G.R. No. 127590, Dr. Ampil asserts that the Court of Appeals erred in finding him liable for negligence and malpractice sans evidence that he left the two pieces of gauze in Natividad’s vagina. He pointed to other probable causes, such as: (1) it was Dr. Fuentes who used gauzes in performing the hysterectomy; (2) the attending nurses’ failure to properly count the gauzes used during surgery; and (3) the medical intervention of the American doctors who examined Natividad in the United States of America.
For our resolution are these three vital issues: first, whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding Dr. Ampil liable for negligence and malpractice; second, whether the Court of Appeals erred in absolving Dr. Fuentes of any liability; and third, whether PSI may be held solidarily liable for the negligence of Dr. Ampil.

I - G.R. No. 127590
Whether the Court of Appeals Erred in Holding Dr. Ampil
Liable for Negligence and Malpractice.


Dr. Ampil, in an attempt to absolve himself, gears the Court’s attention to other possible causes of Natividad’s detriment. He argues that the Court should not discount either of the following possibilities: first, Dr. Fuentes left the gauzes in Natividad’s body after performing hysterectomy; second, the attending nurses erred in counting the gauzes; and third, the American doctors were the ones who placed the gauzes in Natividad’s body.
Dr. Ampil’s arguments are purely conjectural and without basis. Records show that he did not present any evidence to prove that the American doctors were the ones who put or left the gauzes in Natividad’s body. Neither did he submit evidence to rebut the correctness of the record of operation, particularly the number of gauzes used. As to the alleged negligence of Dr. Fuentes, we are mindful that Dr. Ampil examined his (Dr. Fuentes’) work and found it in order.
The glaring truth is that all the major circumstances, taken together, as specified by the Court of Appeals, directly point to Dr. Ampil as the negligent party, thus:

First, it is not disputed that the surgeons used gauzes as sponges to control the bleeding of the patient during the surgical operation.
Second, immediately after the operation, the nurses who assisted in the surgery noted in their report that the ‘sponge count (was) lacking 2’; that such anomaly was ‘announced to surgeon’ and that a ‘search was done but to no avail’ prompting Dr. Ampil to ‘continue for closure’ x x x.
Third, after the operation, two (2) gauzes were extracted from the same spot of the body of Mrs. Agana where the surgery was performed.

An operation requiring the placing of sponges in the incision is not complete until the sponges are properly removed, and it is settled that the leaving of sponges or other foreign substances in the wound after the incision has been closed is at least prima facie negligence by the operating surgeon. To put it simply, such act is considered so inconsistent with due care as to raise an inference of negligence. There are even legions of authorities to the effect that such act is negligence per se.

Of course, the Court is not blind to the reality that there are times when danger to a patient’s life precludes a surgeon from further searching missing sponges or foreign objects left in the body. But this does not leave him free from any obligation. Even if it has been shown that a surgeon was required by the urgent necessities of the case to leave a sponge in his patient’s abdomen, because of the dangers attendant upon delay, still, it is his legal duty to so inform his patient within a reasonable time thereafter by advising her of what he had been compelled to do. This is in order that she might seek relief from the effects of the foreign object left in her body as her condition might permit. The ruling in Smith v. Zeagler is explicit, thus:

The removal of all sponges used is part of a surgical operation, and when a physician or surgeon fails to remove a sponge he has placed in his patient’s body that should be removed as part of the operation, he thereby leaves his operation uncompleted and creates a new condition which imposes upon him the legal duty of calling the new condition to his patient’s attention, and endeavoring with the means he has at hand to minimize and avoid untoward results likely to ensue therefrom.

Here, Dr. Ampil did not inform Natividad about the missing two pieces of gauze. Worse, he even misled her that the pain she was experiencing was the ordinary consequence of her operation. Had he been more candid, Natividad could have taken the immediate and appropriate medical remedy to remove the gauzes from her body. To our mind, what was initially an act of negligence by Dr. Ampil has ripened into a deliberate wrongful act of deceiving his patient.

This is a clear case of medical malpractice or more appropriately, medical negligence. To successfully pursue this kind of case, a patient must only prove that a health care provider either failed to do something which a reasonably prudent health care provider would have done, or that he did something that a reasonably prudent provider would not have done; and that failure or action caused injury to the patient. Simply put, the elements are duty, breach, injury and proximate causation. Dr, Ampil, as the lead surgeon, had the duty to remove all foreign objects, such as gauzes, from Natividad’s body before closure of the incision. When he failed to do so, it was his duty to inform Natividad about it. Dr. Ampil breached both duties. Such breach caused injury to Natividad, necessitating her further examination by American doctors and another surgery. That Dr. Ampil’s negligence is the proximate cause of Natividad’s injury could be traced from his act of closing the incision despite the information given by the attending nurses that two pieces of gauze were still missing. That they were later on extracted from Natividad’s vagina established the causal link between Dr. Ampil’s negligence and the injury. And what further aggravated such injury was his deliberate concealment of the missing gauzes from the knowledge of Natividad and her family.

II - G.R. No. 126467
Whether the Court of Appeals Erred in Absolving
Dr. Fuentes of any Liability


The Aganas assailed the dismissal by the trial court of the case against Dr. Fuentes on the ground that it is contrary to the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. According to them, the fact that the two pieces of gauze were left inside Natividad’s body is a prima facie evidence of Dr. Fuentes’ negligence.
We are not convinced.
Literally, res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself.” It is the rule that the fact of the occurrence of an injury, taken with the surrounding circumstances, may permit an inference or raise a presumption of negligence, or make out a plaintiff’s prima facie case, and present a question of fact for defendant to meet with an explanation. Stated differently, where the thing which caused the injury, without the fault of the injured, is under the exclusive control of the defendant and the injury is such that it should not have occurred if he, having such control used proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of explanation that the injury arose from the defendant’s want of care, and the burden of proof is shifted to him to establish that he has observed due care and diligence.
From the foregoing statements of the rule, the requisites for the applicability of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur are: (1) the occurrence of an injury; (2) the thing which caused the injury was under the control and management of the defendant; (3) the occurrence was such that in the ordinary course of things, would not have happened if those who had control or management used proper care; and (4) the absence of explanation by the defendant. Of the foregoing requisites, the most instrumental is the “control and management of the thing which caused the injury.”
We find the element of “control and management of the thing which caused the injury” to be wanting. Hence, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur will not lie.
It was duly established that Dr. Ampil was the lead surgeon during the operation of Natividad. He requested the assistance of Dr. Fuentes only to perform hysterectomy when he (Dr. Ampil) found that the malignancy in her sigmoid area had spread to her left ovary. Dr. Fuentes performed the surgery and thereafter reported and showed his work to Dr. Ampil. The latter examined it and finding everything to be in order, allowed Dr. Fuentes to leave the operating room. Dr. Ampil then resumed operating on Natividad. He was about to finish the procedure when the attending nurses informed him that two pieces of gauze were missing. A “diligent search” was conducted, but the misplaced gauzes were not found. Dr. Ampil then directed that the incision be closed. During this entire period, Dr. Fuentes was no longer in the operating room and had, in fact, left the hospital.
Under the “Captain of the Ship” rule, the operating surgeon is the person in complete charge of the surgery room and all personnel connected with the operation. Their duty is to obey his orders. As stated before, Dr. Ampil was the lead surgeon. In other words, he was the “Captain of the Ship.” That he discharged such role is evident from his following conduct: (1) calling Dr. Fuentes to perform a hysterectomy; (2) examining the work of Dr. Fuentes and finding it in order; (3) granting Dr. Fuentes’ permission to leave; and (4) ordering the closure of the incision. To our mind, it was this act of ordering the closure of the incision notwithstanding that two pieces of gauze remained unaccounted for, that caused injury to Natividad’s body. Clearly, the control and management of the thing which caused the injury was in the hands of Dr. Ampil, not Dr. Fuentes.
In this jurisdiction, res ipsa loquitur is not a rule of substantive law, hence, does not per se create or constitute an independent or separate ground of liability, being a mere evidentiary rule. In other words, mere invocation and application of the doctrine does not dispense with the requirement of proof of negligence. Here, the negligence was proven to have been committed by Dr. Ampil and not by Dr. Fuentes.


III - G.R. No. 126297
Whether PSI Is Liable for the Negligence of Dr. Ampil

The third issue necessitates a glimpse at the historical development of hospitals and the resulting theories concerning their liability for the negligence of physicians.
Until the mid-nineteenth century, hospitals were generally charitable institutions, providing medical services to the lowest classes of society, without regard for a patient’s ability to pay. Those who could afford medical treatment were usually treated at home by their doctors. However, the days of house calls and philanthropic health care are over. The modern health care industry continues to distance itself from its charitable past and has experienced a significant conversion from a not-for-profit health care to for-profit hospital businesses. Consequently, significant changes in health law have accompanied the business-related changes in the hospital industry. One important legal change is an increase in hospital liability for medical malpractice. Many courts now allow claims for hospital vicarious liability under the theories of respondeat superior, apparent authority, ostensible authority, or agency by estoppel.
In this jurisdiction, the statute governing liability for negligent acts is Article 2176 of the Civil Code, which reads:
Art. 2176. Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this Chapter.

A derivative of this provision is Article 2180, the rule governing vicarious liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior, thus:
ART. 2180. The obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one’s own acts or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible.

x x x x
The owners and managers of an establishment or enterprise are likewise responsible for damages caused by their employees in the service of the branches in which the latter are employed or on the occasion of their functions.

Employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their assigned tasks even though the former are not engaged in any business or industry.
x x x .

The responsibility treated of in this article shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage.


A prominent civilist commented that professionals engaged by an employer, such as physicians, dentists, and pharmacists, are not “employees” under this article because the manner in which they perform their work is not within the control of the latter (employer). In other words, professionals are considered personally liable for the fault or negligence they commit in the discharge of their duties, and their employer cannot be held liable for such fault or negligence. In the context of the present case, “a hospital cannot be held liable for the fault or negligence of a physician or surgeon in the treatment or operation of patients.”
The foregoing view is grounded on the traditional notion that the professional status and the very nature of the physician’s calling preclude him from being classed as an agent or employee of a hospital, whenever he acts in a professional capacity. It has been said that medical practice strictly involves highly developed and specialized knowledge, such that physicians are generally free to exercise their own skill and judgment in rendering medical services sans interference. Hence, when a doctor practices medicine in a hospital setting, the hospital and its employees are deemed to subserve him in his ministrations to the patient and his actions are of his own responsibility.
The case of Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital was then considered an authority for this view. The “Schloendorff doctrine” regards a physician, even if employed by a hospital, as an independent contractor because of the skill he exercises and the lack of control exerted over his work. Under this doctrine, hospitals are exempt from the application of the respondeat superior principle for fault or negligence committed by physicians in the discharge of their profession.

However, the efficacy of the foregoing doctrine has weakened with the significant developments in medical care. Courts came to realize that modern hospitals are increasingly taking active role in supplying and regulating medical care to patients. No longer were a hospital’s functions limited to furnishing room, food, facilities for treatment and operation, and attendants for its patients. Thus, in Bing v. Thunig, the New York Court of Appeals deviated from the Schloendorff doctrine, noting that modern hospitals actually do far more than provide facilities for treatment. Rather, they regularly employ, on a salaried basis, a large staff of physicians, interns, nurses, administrative and manual workers. They charge patients for medical care and treatment, even collecting for such services through legal action, if necessary. The court then concluded that there is no reason to exempt hospitals from the universal rule of respondeat superior.
In our shores, the nature of the relationship between the hospital and the physicians is rendered inconsequential in view of our categorical pronouncement in Ramos v. Court of Appeals that for purposes of apportioning responsibility in medical negligence cases, an employer-employee relationship in effect exists between hospitals and their attending and visiting physicians. This Court held:
“We now discuss the responsibility of the hospital in this particular incident. The unique practice (among private hospitals) of filling up specialist staff with attending and visiting “consultants,” who are allegedly not hospital employees, presents problems in apportioning responsibility for negligence in medical malpractice cases. However, the difficulty is more apparent than real.

In the first place, hospitals exercise significant control in the hiring and firing of consultants and in the conduct of their work within the hospital premises. Doctors who apply for ‘consultant’ slots, visiting or attending, are required to submit proof of completion of residency, their educational qualifications, generally, evidence of accreditation by the appropriate board (diplomate), evidence of fellowship in most cases, and references. These requirements are carefully scrutinized by members of the hospital administration or by a review committee set up by the hospital who either accept or reject the application. x x x.

After a physician is accepted, either as a visiting or attending consultant, he is normally required to attend clinico-pathological conferences, conduct bedside rounds for clerks, interns and residents, moderate grand rounds and patient audits and perform other tasks and responsibilities, for the privilege of being able to maintain a clinic in the hospital, and/or for the privilege of admitting patients into the hospital. In addition to these, the physician’s performance as a specialist is generally evaluated by a peer review committee on the basis of mortality and morbidity statistics, and feedback from patients, nurses, interns and residents. A consultant remiss in his duties, or a consultant who regularly falls short of the minimum standards acceptable to the hospital or its peer review committee, is normally politely terminated.

In other words, private hospitals, hire, fire and exercise real control over their attending and visiting ‘consultant’ staff. While ‘consultants’ are not, technically employees, x x x, the control exercised, the hiring, and the right to terminate consultants all fulfill the important hallmarks of an employer-employee relationship, with the exception of the payment of wages. In assessing whether such a relationship in fact exists, the control test is determining. Accordingly, on the basis of the foregoing, we rule that for the purpose of allocating responsibility in medical negligence cases, an employer-employee relationship in effect exists between hospitals and their attending and visiting physicians. ”


But the Ramos pronouncement is not our only basis in sustaining PSI’s liability. Its liability is also anchored upon the agency principle of apparent authority or agency by estoppel and the doctrine of corporate negligence which have gained acceptance in the determination of a hospital’s liability for negligent acts of health professionals. The present case serves as a perfect platform to test the applicability of these doctrines, thus, enriching our jurisprudence.

Apparent authority, or what is sometimes referred to as the “holding out” theory, or doctrine of ostensible agency or agency by estoppel, has its origin from the law of agency. It imposes liability, not as the result of the reality of a contractual relationship, but rather because of the actions of a principal or an employer in somehow misleading the public into believing that the relationship or the authority exists. The concept is essentially one of estoppel and has been explained in this manner:

“The principal is bound by the acts of his agent with the apparent authority which he knowingly permits the agent to assume, or which he holds the agent out to the public as possessing. The question in every case is whether the principal has by his voluntary act placed the agent in such a situation that a person of ordinary prudence, conversant with business usages and the nature of the particular business, is justified in presuming that such agent has authority to perform the particular act in question.

The applicability of apparent authority in the field of hospital liability was upheld long time ago in Irving v. Doctor Hospital of Lake Worth, Inc. There, it was explicitly stated that “there does not appear to be any rational basis for excluding the concept of apparent authority from the field of hospital liability.” Thus, in cases where it can be shown that a hospital, by its actions, has held out a particular physician as its agent and/or employee and that a patient has accepted treatment from that physician in the reasonable belief that it is being rendered in behalf of the hospital, then the hospital will be liable for the physician’s negligence.

Our jurisdiction recognizes the concept of an agency by implication or estoppel. Article 1869 of the Civil Code reads:

ART. 1869. Agency may be express, or implied from the acts of the principal, from his silence or lack of action, or his failure to repudiate the agency, knowing that another person is acting on his behalf without authority.


In this case, PSI publicly displays in the lobby of the Medical City Hospital the names and specializations of the physicians associated or accredited by it, including those of Dr. Ampil and Dr. Fuentes. We concur with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that it “is now estopped from passing all the blame to the physicians whose names it proudly paraded in the public directory leading the public to believe that it vouched for their skill and competence.” Indeed, PSI’s act is tantamount to holding out to the public that Medical City Hospital, through its accredited physicians, offers quality health care services. By accrediting Dr. Ampil and Dr. Fuentes and publicly advertising their qualifications, the hospital created the impression that they were its agents, authorized to perform medical or surgical services for its patients. As expected, these patients, Natividad being one of them, accepted the services on the reasonable belief that such were being rendered by the hospital or its employees, agents, or servants. The trial court correctly pointed out:

x x x regardless of the education and status in life of the patient, he ought not be burdened with the defense of absence of employer-employee relationship between the hospital and the independent physician whose name and competence are certainly certified to the general public by the hospital’s act of listing him and his specialty in its lobby directory, as in the case herein. The high costs of today’s medical and health care should at least exact on the hospital greater, if not broader, legal responsibility for the conduct of treatment and surgery within its facility by its accredited physician or surgeon, regardless of whether he is independent or employed.”


The wisdom of the foregoing ratiocination is easy to discern. Corporate entities, like PSI, are capable of acting only through other individuals, such as physicians. If these accredited physicians do their job well, the hospital succeeds in its mission of offering quality medical services and thus profits financially. Logically, where negligence mars the quality of its services, the hospital should not be allowed to escape liability for the acts of its ostensible agents.
We now proceed to the doctrine of corporate negligence or corporate responsibility.
One allegation in the complaint in Civil Case No. Q-43332 for negligence and malpractice is that PSI as owner, operator and manager of Medical City Hospital, “did not perform the necessary supervision nor exercise diligent efforts in the supervision of Drs. Ampil and Fuentes and its nursing staff, resident doctors, and medical interns who assisted Drs. Ampil and Fuentes in the performance of their duties as surgeons.” Premised on the doctrine of corporate negligence, the trial court held that PSI is directly liable for such breach of duty.
We agree with the trial court.
Recent years have seen the doctrine of corporate negligence as the judicial answer to the problem of allocating hospital’s liability for the negligent acts of health practitioners, absent facts to support the application of respondeat superior or apparent authority. Its formulation proceeds from the judiciary’s acknowledgment that in these modern times, the duty of providing quality medical service is no longer the sole prerogative and responsibility of the physician. The modern hospitals have changed structure. Hospitals now tend to organize a highly professional medical staff whose competence and performance need to be monitored by the hospitals commensurate with their inherent responsibility to provide quality medical care.

The doctrine has its genesis in Darling v. Charleston Community Hospital. There, the Supreme Court of Illinois held that “the jury could have found a hospital negligent, inter alia, in failing to have a sufficient number of trained nurses attending the patient; failing to require a consultation with or examination by members of the hospital staff; and failing to review the treatment rendered to the patient.” On the basis of Darling, other jurisdictions held that a hospital’s corporate negligence extends to permitting a physician known to be incompetent to practice at the hospital. With the passage of time, more duties were expected from hospitals, among them: (1) the use of reasonable care in the maintenance of safe and adequate facilities and equipment; (2) the selection and retention of competent physicians; (3) the overseeing or supervision of all persons who practice medicine within its walls; and (4) the formulation, adoption and enforcement of adequate rules and policies that ensure quality care for its patients. Thus, in Tucson Medical Center, Inc. v. Misevich, it was held that a hospital, following the doctrine of corporate responsibility, has the duty to see that it meets the standards of responsibilities for the care of patients. Such duty includes the proper supervision of the members of its medical staff. And in Bost v. Riley, the court concluded that a patient who enters a hospital does so with the reasonable expectation that it will attempt to cure him. The hospital accordingly has the duty to make a reasonable effort to monitor and oversee the treatment prescribed and administered by the physicians practicing in its premises.

In the present case, it was duly established that PSI operates the Medical City Hospital for the purpose and under the concept of providing comprehensive medical services to the public. Accordingly, it has the duty to exercise reasonable care to protect from harm all patients admitted into its facility for medical treatment. Unfortunately, PSI failed to perform such duty. The findings of the trial court are convincing, thus:

x x x PSI’s liability is traceable to its failure to conduct an investigation of the matter reported in the nota bene of the count nurse. Such failure established PSI’s part in the dark conspiracy of silence and concealment about the gauzes. Ethical considerations, if not also legal, dictated the holding of an immediate inquiry into the events, if not for the benefit of the patient to whom the duty is primarily owed, then in the interest of arriving at the truth. The Court cannot accept that the medical and the healing professions, through their members like defendant surgeons, and their institutions like PSI’s hospital facility, can callously turn their backs on and disregard even a mere probability of mistake or negligence by refusing or failing to investigate a report of such seriousness as the one in Natividad’s case.

It is worthy to note that Dr. Ampil and Dr. Fuentes operated on Natividad with the assistance of the Medical City Hospital’s staff, composed of resident doctors, nurses, and interns. As such, it is reasonable to conclude that PSI, as the operator of the hospital, has actual or constructive knowledge of the procedures carried out, particularly the report of the attending nurses that the two pieces of gauze were missing. In Fridena v. Evans, it was held that a corporation is bound by the knowledge acquired by or notice given to its agents or officers within the scope of their authority and in reference to a matter to which their authority extends. This means that the knowledge of any of the staff of Medical City Hospital constitutes knowledge of PSI. Now, the failure of PSI, despite the attending nurses’ report, to investigate and inform Natividad regarding the missing gauzes amounts to callous negligence. Not only did PSI breach its duties to oversee or supervise all persons who practice medicine within its walls, it also failed to take an active step in fixing the negligence committed. This renders PSI, not only vicariously liable for the negligence of Dr. Ampil under Article 2180 of the Civil Code, but also directly liable for its own negligence under Article 2176. In Fridena, the Supreme Court of Arizona held:

x x x In recent years, however, the duty of care owed to the patient by the hospital has expanded. The emerging trend is to hold the hospital responsible where the hospital has failed to monitor and review medical services being provided within its walls. See Kahn Hospital Malpractice Prevention, 27 De Paul . Rev. 23 (1977).
Among the cases indicative of the ‘emerging trend’ is Purcell v. Zimbelman, 18 Ariz. App. 75,500 P. 2d 335 (1972). In Purcell, the hospital argued that it could not be held liable for the malpractice of a medical practitioner because he was an independent contractor within the hospital. The Court of Appeals pointed out that the hospital had created a professional staff whose competence and performance was to be monitored and reviewed by the governing body of the hospital, and the court held that a hospital would be negligent where it had knowledge or reason to believe that a doctor using the facilities was employing a method of treatment or care which fell below the recognized standard of care.

Subsequent to the Purcell decision, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that a hospital has certain inherent responsibilities regarding the quality of medical care furnished to patients within its walls and it must meet the standards of responsibility commensurate with this undertaking. Beeck v. Tucson General Hospital, 18 Ariz. App. 165, 500 P. 2d 1153 (1972). This court has confirmed the rulings of the Court of Appeals that a hospital has the duty of supervising the competence of
the doctors on its staff. x x x.

x x x x x x

In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs did plead that the operation was performed at the hospital with its knowledge, aid, and assistance, and that the negligence of the defendants was the proximate cause of the patient’s injuries. We find that such general allegations of negligence, along with the evidence produced at the trial of this case, are sufficient to support the hospital’s liability based on the theory of negligent supervision.”

Anent the corollary issue of whether PSI is solidarily liable with Dr. Ampil for damages, let it be emphasized that PSI, apart from a general denial of its responsibility, failed to adduce evidence showing that it exercised the diligence of a good father of a family in the accreditation and supervision of the latter. In neglecting to offer such proof, PSI failed to discharge its burden under the last paragraph of Article 2180 cited earlier, and, therefore, must be adjudged solidarily liable with Dr. Ampil. Moreover, as we have discussed, PSI is also directly liable to the Aganas.

One final word. Once a physician undertakes the treatment and care of a patient, the law imposes on him certain obligations. In order to escape liability, he must possess that reasonable degree of learning, skill and experience required by his profession. At the same time, he must apply reasonable care and diligence in the exercise of his skill and the application of his knowledge, and exert his best judgment.
WHEREFORE, we DENY all the petitions and AFFIRM the challenged Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 42062 and CA-G.R. SP No. 32198.
Costs against petitioners PSI and Dr. Miguel Ampil.
SO ORDERED.



2008 Resolution on Motion for Reconsideration


Professional Services, Inc v. Agana and Agana, GR No. 126297; Agana, et al. v. Fuentes, GR No. 126467; Ampil v. Agana and Agana; GR No. 127590; February 11, 2008
As the hospital industry changes, so must the laws and jurisprudence governing hospital liability. The immunity from medical malpractice traditionally accorded to hospitals has to be eroded if we are to balance the interest of the patients and hospitals under the present setting.
Before this Court is a motion for reconsideration filed by Professional Services, Inc. (PSI), petitioner in G.R. No. 126297, assailing the Court’s First Division Decision dated January 31, 2007, finding PSI and Dr. Miguel Ampil, petitioner in G.R. No. 127590, jointly and severally liable for medical negligence.

X x x.
X x x.

As earlier mentioned, the First Division, in its assailed Decision, ruled that an employer-employee relationship “in effect” exists between the Medical City and Dr. Ampil. Consequently, both are jointly and severally liable to the Aganas. This ruling proceeds from the following ratiocination in Ramos:

We now discuss the responsibility of the hospital in this particular incident. The unique practice (among private hospitals) of filling up specialist staff with attending and visiting “consultants,” who are allegedly not hospital employees, presents problems in apportioning responsibility for negligence in medical malpractice cases. However, the difficulty is only more apparent than real.
In the first place, hospitals exercise significant control in the hiring and firing of consultants and in the conduct of their work within the hospital premises. Doctors who apply for “consultant” slots, visiting or attending, are required to submit proof of completion of residency, their educational qualifications; generally, evidence of accreditation by the appropriate board (diplomate), evidence of fellowship in most cases, and references. These requirements are carefully scrutinized by members of the hospital administration or by a review committee set up by the hospital who either accept or reject the application. This is particularly true with respondent hospital.

After a physician is accepted, either as a visiting or attending consultant, he is normally required to attend clinico-pathological conferences, conduct bedside rounds for clerks, interns and residents, moderate grand rounds and patient audits and perform other tasks and responsibilities, for the privilege of being able to maintain a clinic in the hospital, and/or for the privilege of admitting patients into the hospital. In addition to these, the physician’s performance as a specialist is generally evaluated by a peer review committee on the basis of mortality and morbidity statistics, and feedback from patients, nurses, interns and residents. A consultant remiss in his duties, or a consultant who regularly falls short of the minimum standards acceptable to the hospital or its peer review committee, is normally politely terminated.

In other words, private hospitals hire, fire and exercise real control over their attending and visiting “consultant” staff. While “consultants” are not, technically employees, a point which respondent hospital asserts in denying all responsibility for the patient’s condition, the control exercised, the hiring, and the right to terminate consultants all fulfill the important hallmarks of an employer-employee relationship, with the exception of the payment of wages. In assessing whether such a relationship in fact exists, the control test is determining. Accordingly, on the basis of the foregoing, we rule that for the purpose of allocating responsibility in medical negligence cases, an employer-employee relationship in effect exists between hospitals and their attending and visiting physicians. This being the case, the question now arises as to whether or not respondent hospital is solidarily liable with respondent doctors for petitioner’s condition.

The basis for holding an employer solidarily responsible for the negligence of its employee is found in Article 2180 of the Civil Code which considers a person accountable not only for his own acts but also for those of others based on the former’s responsibility under a relationship of partia ptetas.

Clearly, in Ramos, the Court considered the peculiar relationship between a hospital and its consultants on the bases of certain factors. One such factor is the “control test” wherein the hospital exercises control in the hiring and firing of consultants, like Dr. Ampil, and in the conduct of their work.

Actually, contrary to PSI’s contention, the Court did not reverse its ruling in Ramos. What it clarified was that the De Los Santos Medical Clinic did not exercise control over its consultant, hence, there is no employer-employee relationship between them. Thus, despite the granting of the said hospital’s motion for reconsideration, the doctrine in Ramos stays, i.e., for the purpose of allocating responsibility in medical negligence cases, an employer-employee relationship exists between hospitals and their consultants.

In the instant cases, PSI merely offered a general denial of responsibility, maintaining that consultants, like Dr. Ampil, are “independent contractors,” not employees of the hospital. Even assuming that Dr. Ampil is not an employee of Medical City, but an independent contractor, still the said hospital is liable to the Aganas.

In Nograles, et al. v. Capitol Medical Center, et al., through Mr. Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the Court held:

The question now is whether CMC is automatically exempt from liability considering that Dr. Estrada is an independent contractor-physician.
In general, a hospital is not liable for the negligence of an independent contractor-physician. There is, however, an exception to this principle. The hospital may be liable if the physician is the “ostensible” agent of the hospital. (Jones v. Philpott, 702 F. Supp. 1210 [1988]) This exception is also known as the “doctrine of apparent authority.” (Sometimes referred to as the apparent or ostensible agency theory. [King v. Mitchell, 31 A.D.3rd 958, 819 N.Y. S.2d 169 (2006)].
x x x

The doctrine of apparent authority essentially involves two factors to determine the liability of an independent contractor-physician.
The first factor focuses on the hospital’s manifestations and is sometimes described as an inquiry whether the hospital acted in a manner which would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the individual who was alleged to be negligent was an employee or agent of the hospital. (Diggs v. Novant Health, Inc., 628 S.E.2d 851 (2006) citing Hylton v. Koontz, 138 N.C. App. 629 (2000). In this regard, the hospital need not make express representations to the patient that the treating physician is an employee of the hospital; rather a representation may be general and implied. (Id.)

The doctrine of apparent authority is a specie of the doctrine of estoppel. Article 1431 of the Civil Code provides that “[t]hrough estoppel, an admission or representation is rendered conclusive upon the person making it, and cannot be denied or disproved as against the person relying thereon.” Estoppel rests on this rule: “Whether a party has, by his own declaration, act, or omission, intentionally and deliberately led another to believe a particular thing true, and to act upon such belief, he cannot, in any litigation arising out of such declaration, act or omission, be permitted to falsify it. (De Castro v. Ginete, 137 Phil. 453 [1969], citing Sec. 3, par. A, Rule 131 of the Rules of Court. See also King v. Mitchell, 31 A.D.3rd 958, 819 N.Y.S.2d 169 [2006]).
x x x

The second factor focuses on the patient’s reliance. It is sometimes characterized as an inquiry on whether the plaintiff acted in reliance upon the conduct of the hospital or its agent, consistent with ordinary care and prudence. (Diggs v. Novant Health, Inc.)


PSI argues that the doctrine of apparent authority cannot apply to these cases because spouses Agana failed to establish proof of their reliance on the representation of Medical City that Dr. Ampil is its employee.
The argument lacks merit.
Atty. Agana categorically testified that one of the reasons why he chose Dr. Ampil was that he knew him to be a staff member of Medical City, a prominent and known hospital.

Q Will you tell us what transpired in your visit to Dr. Ampil?

A Well, I saw Dr. Ampil at the Medical City, I know him to be a staff member there, and I told him about the case of my wife and he asked me to bring my wife over so she could be examined. Prior to that, I have known Dr. Ampil, first, he was staying in front of our house, he was a neighbor, second, my daughter was his student in the University of the East School of Medicine at Ramon Magsaysay; and when my daughter opted to establish a hospital or a clinic, Dr. Ampil was one of our consultants on how to establish that hospital. And from there, I have known that he was a specialist when it comes to that illness.

Atty. Agcaoili

On that particular occasion, April 2, 1984, what was your reason for choosing to contact Dr. Ampil in connection with your wife’s illness?

A First, before that, I have known him to be a specialist on that part of the body as a surgeon; second, I have known him to be a staff member of the Medical City which is a prominent and known hospital. And third, because he is a neighbor, I expect more than the usual medical service to be given to us, than his ordinary patients.


Clearly, PSI is estopped from passing the blame solely to Dr. Ampil. Its act of displaying his name and those of the other physicians in the public directory at the lobby of the hospital amounts to holding out to the public that it offers quality medical service through the listed physicians. This justifies Atty. Agana’s belief that Dr. Ampil was a member of the hospital’s staff. It must be stressed that under the doctrine of apparent authority, the question in every case is whether the principal has by his voluntary act placed the agent in such a situation that a person of ordinary prudence, conversant with business usages and the nature of the particular business, is justified in presuming that such agent has authority to perform the particular act in question. In these cases, the circumstances yield a positive answer to the question.

The challenged Decision also anchors its ruling on the doctrine of corporate responsibility. The duty of providing quality medical service is no longer the sole prerogative and responsibility of the physician. This is because the modern hospital now tends to organize a highly-professional medical staff whose competence and performance need also to be monitored by the hospital commensurate with its inherent responsibility to provide quality medical care. Such responsibility includes the proper supervision of the members of its medical staff. Accordingly, the hospital has the duty to make a reasonable effort to monitor and oversee the treatment prescribed and administered by the physicians practicing in its premises.
Unfortunately, PSI had been remiss in its duty. It did not conduct an immediate investigation on the reported missing gauzes to the great prejudice and agony of its patient. Dr. Jocson, a member of PSI’s medical staff, who testified on whether the hospital conducted an investigation, was evasive, thus:

Q We go back to the operative technique, this was signed by Dr. Puruganan, was this submitted to the hospital?
A Yes, sir, this was submitted to the hospital with the record of the patient.

Q Was the hospital immediately informed about the missing sponges?
A That is the duty of the surgeon, sir.

Q As a witness to an untoward incident in the operating room, was it not your obligation, Dr., to also report to the hospital because you are under the control and direction of the hospital?
A The hospital already had the record of the two OS missing, sir.

Q If you place yourself in the position of the hospital, how will you recover.
A You do not answer my question with another question.

Q Did the hospital do anything about the missing gauzes?
A The hospital left it up to the surgeon who was doing the operation, sir.

Q Did the hospital investigate the surgeon who did the operation?
A I am not in the position to answer that, sir.

Q You never did hear the hospital investigating the doctors involved in this case of those missing sponges, or did you hear something?

x x x x x x

A I think we already made a report by just saying that two sponges were missing, it is up to the hospital to make the move.

Atty. Agana

Precisely, I am asking you if the hospital did a move, if the hospital did a move.
A I cannot answer that.


Court
By that answer, would you mean to tell the Court that you were aware if there was such a move done by the hospital?
A I cannot answer that, your honor, because I did not have any more follow-up of the case that happened until now.



The above testimony obviously shows Dr. Jocson’s lack of concern for the patients. Such conduct is reflective of the hospital’s manner of supervision. Not only did PSI breach its duty to oversee or supervise all persons who practice medicine within its walls, it also failed to take an active step in fixing the negligence committed. This renders PSI, not only vicariously liable for the negligence of Dr. Ampil under Article 2180 of the Civil Code, but also directly liable for its own negligence under Article 2176.

Moreover, there is merit in the trial court’s finding that the failure of PSI to conduct an investigation “established PSI’s part in the dark conspiracy of silence and concealment about the gauzes.” The following testimony of Atty. Agana supports such findings, thus:

Q You said you relied on the promise of Dr. Ampil and despite the promise you were not able to obtain the said record. Did you go back to the record custodian?
A I did not because I was talking to Dr. Ampil. He promised me.

Q After your talk to Dr. Ampil, you went to the record custodian?
A I went to the record custodian to get the clinical record of my wife, and I was given a portion of the records consisting of the findings, among them, the entries of the dates, but not the operating procedure and operative report.



In sum, we find no merit in the motion for reconsideration.

WHEREFORE, we DENY PSI’s motion for reconsideration with finality.

SO ORDERED.


2010 En Banc Resolution on the Motion for Reconsideration

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES, INC. vs. Court of Appeals, et.al., En Banc, GR No. 126297, February 2, 2010; NATIVIDAD and ENRIQUE AGANA vs. CA, et. al., En Banc, GR NO. 126467, February 2, 2010; MIGUEL AMPIL vs. Natividad and Enrique Roque, En Banc, G.R. No. 127590, February 2, 2010.

X x x.

The Court premised the direct liability of PSI to the Aganas on the following facts and law:

First, there existed between PSI and Dr. Ampil an employer-employee relationship as contemplated in the December 29, 1999 decision in Ramos v. Court of Appeals that “for purposes of allocating responsibility in medical negligence cases, an employer-employee relationship exists between hospitals and their consultants.” Although the Court in Ramos later issued a Resolution dated April 11, 2002 reversing its earlier finding on the existence of an employment relationship between hospital and doctor, a similar reversal was not warranted in the present case because the defense raised by PSI consisted of a mere general denial of control or responsibility over the actions of Dr. Ampil.

Second, by accrediting Dr. Ampil and advertising his qualifications, PSI created the public impression that he was its agent. Enrique testified that it was on account of Dr. Ampil's accreditation with PSI that he conferred with said doctor about his wife's (Natividad's) condition. After his meeting with Dr. Ampil, Enrique asked Natividad to personally consult Dr. Ampil. In effect, when Enrigue and Natividad engaged the services of Dr. Ampil, at the back of their minds was that the latter was a staff member of a prestigious hospital. Thus, under the doctrine of apparent authority applied in Nogales, et al. v. Capitol Medical Center, et al., PSI was liable for the negligence of Dr. Ampil.

Finally, as owner and operator of Medical City General Hospital, PSI was bound by its duty to provide comprehensive medical services to Natividad Agana, to exercise reasonable care to protect her from harm, to oversee or supervise all persons who practiced medicine within its walls, and to take active steps in fixing any form of negligence committed within its premises. PSI committed a serious breach of its corporate duty when it failed to conduct an immediate investigation into the reported missing gauzes.

PSI is now asking this Court to reconsider the foregoing rulings for these reasons:

I

The declaration in the 31 January 2007 Decision vis-a-vis the 11 February 2009 Resolution that the ruling in Ramos vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 134354, December 29, 1999) that “an employer-employee relations exists between hospital and their consultants” stays should be set aside for being inconsistent with or contrary to the import of the resolution granting the hospital's motion for reconsideration in Ramos vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 134354, April 11, 2002), which is applicable to PSI since the Aganas failed to prove an employer-employee relationship between PSI and Dr. Ampil and PSI proved that it has no control over Dr. Ampil. In fact, the trial court has found that there is no employer-employee relationship in this case and that the doctor's are independent contractors.

II

Respondents Aganas engaged Dr. Miguel Ampil as their doctor and did not primarily and specifically look to the Medical City Hospital (PSI) for medical care and support; otherwise stated, respondents Aganas did not select Medical City Hospital (PSI) to provide medical care because of any apparent authority of Dr. Miguel Ampil as its agent since the latter was chosen primarily and specifically based on his qualifications and being friend and neighbor.

III

PSI cannot be liable under doctrine of corporate negligence since the proximate cause of Mrs. Agana's injury was the negligence of Dr. Ampil, which is an element of the principle of corporate negligence.

In their respective memoranda, intervenors raise parallel arguments that the Court's ruling on the existence of an employer-employee relationship between private hospitals and consultants will force a drastic and complex alteration in the long-established and currently prevailing relationships among patient, physician and hospital, with burdensome operational and financial consequences and adverse effects on all three parties.

The Aganas comment that the arguments of PSI need no longer be entertained for they have all been traversed in the assailed decision and resolution.

After gathering its thoughts on the issues, this Court holds that PSI is liable to the Aganas, not under the principle of respondeat superior for lack of evidence of an employment relationship with Dr. Ampil but under the principle of ostensible agency for the negligence of Dr. Ampil and, pro hac vice, under the principle of corporate negligence for its failure to perform its duties as a hospital.

While in theory a hospital as a juridical entity cannot practice medicine, in reality it utilizes doctors, surgeons and medical practitioners in the conduct of its business of facilitating medical and surgical treatment. Within that reality, three legal relationships crisscross: (1) between the hospital and the doctor practicing within its premises; (2) between the hospital and the patient being treated or examined within its premises and (3) between the patient and the doctor. The exact nature of each relationship determines the basis and extent of the liability of the hospital for the negligence of the doctor.

Where an employment relationship exists, the hospital may be held vicariously liable under Article 2176 in relation to Article 2180 of the Civil Code or the principle of respondeat superior. Even when no employment relationship exists but it is shown that the hospital holds out to the patient that the doctor is its agent, the hospital may still be vicariously liable under Article 2176 in relation to Article 1431 and Article 1869 of the Civil Code or the principle of apparent authority. Moreover, regardless of its relationship with the doctor, the hospital may be held directly liable to the patient for its own negligence or failure to follow established standard of conduct to which it should conform as a corporation.

This Court still employs the “control test” to determine the existence of an employer-employee relationship between hospital and doctor. In Calamba Medical Center, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, et al. it held:

Under the "control test", an employment relationship exists between a physician and a hospital if the hospital controls both the means and the details of the process by which the physician is to accomplish his task.

xx xx xx

As priorly stated, private respondents maintained specific work-schedules, as determined by petitioner through its medical director, which consisted of 24-hour shifts totaling forty-eight hours each week and which were strictly to be observed under pain of administrative sanctions.

That petitioner exercised control over respondents gains light from the undisputed fact that in the emergency room, the operating room, or any department or ward for that matter, respondents' work is monitored through its nursing supervisors, charge nurses and orderlies. Without the approval or consent of petitioner or its medical director, no operations can be undertaken in those areas. For control test to apply, it is not essential for the employer to actually supervise the performance of duties of the employee, it being enough that it has the right to wield the power. (emphasis supplied)


Even in its December 29, 1999 decision and April 11, 2002 resolution in Ramos, the Court found the control test decisive.

In the present case, it appears to have escaped the Court's attention that both the RTC and the CA found no employment relationship between PSI and Dr. Ampil, and that the Aganas did not question such finding. In its March 17, 1993 decision, the RTC found “that defendant doctors were not employees of PSI in its hospital, they being merely consultants without any employer-employee relationship and in the capacity of independent contractors.” The Aganas never questioned such finding.

PSI, Dr. Ampil and Dr. Fuentes appealed from the RTC decision but only on the issues of negligence, agency and corporate liability. In its September 6, 1996 decision, the CA mistakenly referred to PSI and Dr. Ampil as employer-employee, but it was clear in its discussion on the matter that it viewed their relationship as one of mere apparent agency.

The Aganas appealed from the CA decision, but only to question the exoneration of Dr. Fuentes. PSI also appealed from the CA decision, and it was then that the issue of employment, though long settled, was unwittingly resurrected.

In fine, as there was no dispute over the RTC finding that PSI and Dr. Ampil had no employer-employee relationship, such finding became final and conclusive even to this Court. There was no reason for PSI to have raised it as an issue in its petition. Thus, whatever discussion on the matter that may have ensued was purely academic.

Nonetheless, to allay the anxiety of the intervenors, the Court holds that, in this particular instance, the concurrent finding of the RTC and the CA that PSI was not the employer of Dr. Ampil is correct. Control as a determinative factor in testing the employer-employee relationship between doctor and hospital under which the hospital could be held vicariously liable to a patient in medical negligence cases is a requisite fact to be established by preponderance of evidence. Here, there was insufficient evidence that PSI exercised the power of control or wielded such power over the means and the details of the specific process by which Dr. Ampil applied his skills in the treatment of Natividad. Consequently, PSI cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligence of Dr. Ampil under the principle of respondeat superior.

There is, however, ample evidence that the hospital (PSI) held out to the patient (Natividad) that the doctor (Dr. Ampil) was its agent. Present are the two factors that determine apparent authority: first, the hospital's implied manifestation to the patient which led the latter to conclude that the doctor was the hospital's agent; and second, the patient’s reliance upon the conduct of the hospital and the doctor, consistent with ordinary care and prudence.

Enrique testified that on April 2, 1984, he consulted Dr. Ampil regarding the condition of his wife; that after the meeting and as advised by Dr. Ampil, he “asked [his] wife to go to Medical City to be examined by [Dr. Ampil]”; and that the next day, April 3, he told his daughter to take her mother to Dr. Ampil. This timeline indicates that it was Enrique who actually made the decision on whom Natividad should consult and where, and that the latter merely acceded to it. It explains the testimony of Natividad that she consulted Dr. Ampil at the instigation of her daughter.

Moreover, when asked what impelled him to choose Dr. Ampil, Enrique testified:
Atty. Agcaoili

On that particular occasion, April 2, 1984, what was your reason for choosing Dr. Ampil to contact with in connection with your wife's illness?

A. First, before that, I have known him to be a specialist on that part of the body as a surgeon, second, I have known him to be a staff member of the Medical City which is a prominent and known hospital. And third, because he is a neighbor, I expect more than the usual medical service to be given to us, than his ordinary patients. (emphasis supplied)

Clearly, the decision made by Enrique for Natividad to consult Dr. Ampil was significantly influenced by the impression that Dr. Ampil was a staff member of Medical City General Hospital, and that said hospital was well known and prominent. Enrique looked upon Dr. Ampil not as independent of but as integrally related to Medical City.

PSI's acts tended to confirm and reinforce, rather than negate, Enrique's view. It is of record that PSI required a “consent for hospital care” to be signed preparatory to the surgery of Natividad. The form reads:

Permission is hereby given to the medical, nursing and laboratory staff of the Medical City General Hospital to perform such diagnostic procedures and to administer such medications and treatments as may be deemed necessary or advisable by the physicians of this hospital for and during the confinement of xxx. (emphasis supplied)

By such statement, PSI virtually reinforced the public impression that Dr. Ampil was a physician of its hospital, rather than one independently practicing in it; that the medications and treatments he prescribed were necessary and desirable; and that the hospital staff was prepared to carry them out.

PSI pointed out in its memorandum that Dr. Ampil's hospital affiliation was not the exclusive basis of the Aganas’ decision to have Natividad treated in Medical City General Hospital, meaning that, had Dr. Ampil been affiliated with another hospital, he would still have been chosen by the Aganas as Natividad's surgeon.

The Court cannot speculate on what could have been behind the Aganas’ decision but would rather adhere strictly to the fact that, under the circumstances at that time, Enrique decided to consult Dr. Ampil for he believed him to be a staff member of a prominent and known hospital. After his meeting with Dr. Ampil, Enrique advised his wife Natividad to go to the Medical City General Hospital to be examined by said doctor, and the hospital acted in a way that fortified Enrique's belief.

This Court must therefore maintain the ruling that PSI is vicariously liable for the negligence of Dr. Ampil as its ostensible agent.

Moving on to the next issue, the Court notes that PSI made the following admission in its Motion for Reconsideration:

51. Clearly, not being an agent or employee of petitioner PSI, PSI [sic] is not liable for Dr. Ampil's acts during the operation. Considering further that Dr. Ampil was personally engaged as a doctor by Mrs. Agana, it is incumbent upon Dr. Ampil, as “Captain of the Ship”, and as the Agana's doctor to advise her on what to do with her situation vis-a-vis the two missing gauzes. In addition to noting the missing gauzes, regular check-ups were made and no signs of complications were exhibited during her stay at the hospital, which could have alerted petitioner PSI's hospital to render and provide post-operation services to and tread on Dr. Ampil's role as the doctor of Mrs. Agana. The absence of negligence of PSI from the patient's admission up to her discharge is borne by the finding of facts in this case. Likewise evident therefrom is the absence of any complaint from Mrs. Agana after her discharge from the hospital which had she brought to the hospital's attention, could have alerted petitioner PSI to act accordingly and bring the matter to Dr. Ampil's attention. But this was not the case. Ms. Agana complained ONLY to Drs. Ampil and Fuentes, not the hospital. How then could PSI possibly do something to fix the negligence committed by Dr. Ampil when it was not informed about it at all. (emphasis supplied)

PSI reiterated its admission when it stated that had Natividad Agana “informed the hospital of her discomfort and pain, the hospital would have been obliged to act on it.”

The significance of the foregoing statements is critical.

First, they constitute judicial admission by PSI that while it had no power to control the means or method by which Dr. Ampil conducted the surgery on Natividad Agana, it had the power to review or cause the review of what may have irregularly transpired within its walls strictly for the purpose of determining whether some form of negligence may have attended any procedure done inside its premises, with the ultimate end of protecting its patients.

Second, it is a judicial admission that, by virtue of the nature of its business as well as its prominence in the hospital industry, it assumed a duty to “tread on” the “captain of the ship” role of any doctor rendering services within its premises for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the patients availing themselves of its services and facilities.

Third, by such admission, PSI defined the standards of its corporate conduct under the circumstances of this case, specifically: (a) that it had a corporate duty to Natividad even after her operation to ensure her safety as a patient; (b) that its corporate duty was not limited to having its nursing staff note or record the two missing gauzes and (c) that its corporate duty extended to determining Dr. Ampil's role in it, bringing the matter to his attention, and correcting his negligence.

And finally, by such admission, PSI barred itself from arguing in its second motion for reconsideration that the concept of corporate responsibility was not yet in existence at the time Natividad underwent treatment; and that if it had any corporate responsibility, the same was limited to reporting the missing gauzes and did not include “taking an active step in fixing the negligence committed.” An admission made in the pleading cannot be controverted by the party making such admission and is conclusive as to him, and all proofs submitted by him contrary thereto or inconsistent therewith should be ignored, whether or not objection is interposed by a party.

Given the standard of conduct that PSI defined for itself, the next relevant inquiry is whether the hospital measured up to it.

PSI excuses itself from fulfilling its corporate duty on the ground that Dr. Ampil assumed the personal responsibility of informing Natividad about the two missing gauzes. Dr. Ricardo Jocson, who was part of the group of doctors that attended to Natividad, testified that toward the end of the surgery, their group talked about the missing gauzes but Dr. Ampil assured them that he would personally notify the patient about it. Furthermore, PSI claimed that there was no reason for it to act on the report on the two missing gauzes because Natividad Agana showed no signs of complications. She did not even inform the hospital about her discomfort.

The excuses proffered by PSI are totally unacceptable.

To begin with, PSI could not simply wave off the problem and nonchalantly delegate to Dr. Ampil the duty to review what transpired during the operation. The purpose of such review would have been to pinpoint when, how and by whom two surgical gauzes were mislaid so that necessary remedial measures could be taken to avert any jeopardy to Natividad’s recovery. Certainly, PSI could not have expected that purpose to be achieved by merely hoping that the person likely to have mislaid the gauzes might be able to retrace his own steps. By its own standard of corporate conduct, PSI's duty to initiate the review was non-delegable.

While Dr. Ampil may have had the primary responsibility of notifying Natividad about the missing gauzes, PSI imposed upon itself the separate and independent responsibility of initiating the inquiry into the missing gauzes. The purpose of the first would have been to apprise Natividad of what transpired during her surgery, while the purpose of the second would have been to pinpoint any lapse in procedure that led to the gauze count discrepancy, so as to prevent a recurrence thereof and to determine corrective measures that would ensure the safety of Natividad. That Dr. Ampil negligently failed to notify Natividad did not release PSI from its self-imposed separate responsibility.

Corollary to its non-delegable undertaking to review potential incidents of negligence committed within its premises, PSI had the duty to take notice of medical records prepared by its own staff and submitted to its custody, especially when these bear earmarks of a surgery gone awry. Thus, the record taken during the operation of Natividad which reported a gauze count discrepancy should have given PSI sufficient reason to initiate a review. It should not have waited for Natividad to complain.

As it happened, PSI took no heed of the record of operation and consequently did not initiate a review of what transpired during Natividad’s operation. Rather, it shirked its responsibility and passed it on to others – to Dr. Ampil whom it expected to inform Natividad, and to Natividad herself to complain before it took any meaningful step. By its inaction, therefore, PSI failed its own standard of hospital care. It committed corporate negligence.

It should be borne in mind that the corporate negligence ascribed to PSI is different from the medical negligence attributed to Dr. Ampil. The duties of the hospital are distinct from those of the doctor-consultant practicing within its premises in relation to the patient; hence, the failure of PSI to fulfill its duties as a hospital corporation gave rise to a direct liability to the Aganas distinct from that of Dr. Ampil.

All this notwithstanding, we make it clear that PSI’s hospital liability based on ostensible agency and corporate negligence applies only to this case, pro hac vice. It is not intended to set a precedent and should not serve as a basis to hold hospitals liable for every form of negligence of their doctors-consultants under any and all circumstances. The ruling is unique to this case, for the liability of PSI arose from an implied agency with Dr. Ampil and an admitted corporate duty to Natividad.

Other circumstances peculiar to this case warrant this ruling, not the least of which being that the agony wrought upon the Aganas has gone on for 26 long years, with Natividad coming to the end of her days racked in pain and agony. Such wretchedness could have been avoided had PSI simply done what was logical: heed the report of a guaze count discrepancy, initiate a review of what went wrong and take corrective measures to ensure the safety of Nativad. Rather, for 26 years, PSI hemmed and hawed at every turn, disowning any such responsibility to its patient. Meanwhile, the options left to the Aganas have all but dwindled, for the status of Dr. Ampil can no longer be ascertained.

Therefore, taking all the equities of this case into consideration, this Court believes P15 million would be a fair and reasonable liability of PSI, subject to 12% p.a. interest from the finality of this resolution to full satisfaction.

WHEREFORE, the second motion for reconsideration is DENIED and the motions for intervention are NOTED.

Professional Services, Inc. is ORDERED pro hac vice to pay Natividad (substituted by her children Marcelino Agana III, Enrique Agana, Jr., Emma Agana-Andaya, Jesus Agana and Raymund Agana) and Enrique Agana the total amount of P15 million, subject to 12% p.a. interest from the finality of this resolution to full satisfaction.

No further pleadings by any party shall be entertained in this case.

Let the long-delayed entry of judgment be made in this case upon receipt by all concerned parties of this resolution.

SO ORDERED.


Read also:


1999 Decision in Ramos vs. CA

ROGELIO E. RAMOS and ERLINDA RAMOS, et. al. vs. vs. COURT OF APPEALS, et. al., G.R. No. 124354. December 29, 1999.

The Hippocratic Oath mandates physicians to give primordial consideration to the health and welfare of their patients. If a doctor fails to live up to this precept, he is made accountable for his acts. A mistake, through gross negligence or incompetence or plain human error, may spell the difference between life and death. In this sense, the doctor plays God on his patient’s fate.

In the case at bar, the Court is called upon to rule whether a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and a hospital should be made liable for the unfortunate comatose condition of a patient scheduled for cholecystectomy.

Petitioners seek the reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 29 May 1995, which overturned the decisionof the Regional Trial Court, dated 30 January 1992, finding private respondents liable for damages arising from negligence in the performance of their professional duties towards petitioner Erlinda Ramos resulting in her comatose condition.

The antecedent facts as summarized by the trial court are reproduced hereunder:

Plaintiff Erlinda Ramos was, until the afternoon of June 17, 1985, a 47-year old (Exh. “A”) robust woman (TSN, October 19, 1989, p. 10). Except for occasional complaints of discomfort due to pains allegedly caused by the presence of a stone in her gall bladder (TSN, January 13, 1988, pp. 4-5), she was as normal as any other woman. Married to Rogelio E. Ramos, an executive of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, she has three children whose names are Rommel Ramos, Roy Roderick Ramos and Ron Raymond Ramos (TSN, October 19, 1989, pp. 5-6).

Because the discomforts somehow interfered with her normal ways, she sought professional advice. She was advised to undergo an operation for the removal of a stone in her gall bladder (TSN, January 13, 1988, p. 5). She underwent a series of examinations which included blood and urine tests (Exhs. “A” and “C”) which indicated she was fit for surgery.

Through the intercession of a mutual friend, Dr. Buenviaje (TSN, January 13, 1988, p. 7), she and her husband Rogelio met for the first time Dr. Orlino Hozaka (should be Hosaka; see TSN, February 20, 1990, p. 3), one of the defendants in this case, on June 10, 1985. They agreed that their date at the operating table at the DLSMC (another defendant), would be on June 17, 1985 at 9:00 A.M.. Dr. Hosaka decided that she should undergo a “cholecystectomy” operation after examining the documents (findings from the Capitol Medical Center, FEU Hospital and DLSMC) presented to him. Rogelio E. Ramos, however, asked Dr. Hosaka to look for a good anesthesiologist. Dr. Hosaka, in turn, assured Rogelio that he will get a good anesthesiologist. Dr. Hosaka charged a fee of P16,000.00, which was to include the anesthesiologist’s fee and which was to be paid after the operation (TSN, October 19, 1989, pp. 14-15, 22-23, 31-33; TSN, February 27, 1990, p. 13; and TSN, November 9, 1989, pp. 3-4, 10, 17).

A day before the scheduled date of operation, she was admitted at one of the rooms of the DLSMC, located along E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon City (TSN, October 19, 1989, p. 11).

At around 7:30 A.M. of June 17, 1985 and while still in her room, she was prepared for the operation by the hospital staff. Her sister-in-law, Herminda Cruz, who was the Dean of the College of Nursing at the Capitol Medical Center, was also there for moral support. She reiterated her previous request for Herminda to be with her even during the operation. After praying, she was given injections. Her hands were held by Herminda as they went down from her room to the operating room (TSN, January 13, 1988, pp. 9-11). Her husband, Rogelio, was also with her (TSN, October 19, 1989, p. 18). At the operating room, Herminda saw about two or three nurses and Dr. Perfecta Gutierrez, the other defendant, who was to administer anesthesia. Although not a member of the hospital staff, Herminda introduced herself as Dean of the College of Nursing at the Capitol Medical Center who was to provide moral support to the patient, to them. Herminda was allowed to stay inside the operating room.

At around 9:30 A.M., Dr. Gutierrez reached a nearby phone to look for Dr. Hosaka who was not yet in (TSN, January 13, 1988, pp. 11-12). Dr. Gutierrez thereafter informed Herminda Cruz about the prospect of a delay in the arrival of Dr. Hosaka. Herminda then went back to the patient who asked, “Mindy, wala pa ba ang Doctor”? The former replied, “Huwag kang mag-alaala, darating na iyon” (ibid.).

Thereafter, Herminda went out of the operating room and informed the patient’s husband, Rogelio, that the doctor was not yet around (id., p. 13). When she returned to the operating room, the patient told her, “Mindy, inip na inip na ako, ikuha mo ako ng ibang Doctor.” So, she went out again and told Rogelio about what the patient said (id., p. 15). Thereafter, she returned to the operating room.

At around 10:00 A.M., Rogelio E. Ramos was “already dying [and] waiting for the arrival of the doctor” even as he did his best to find somebody who will allow him to pull out his wife from the operating room (TSN, October 19, 1989, pp. 19-20). He also thought of the feeling of his wife, who was inside the operating room waiting for the doctor to arrive (ibid.). At almost 12:00 noon, he met Dr. Garcia who remarked that he (Dr. Garcia) was also tired of waiting for Dr. Hosaka to arrive (id., p. 21). While talking to Dr. Garcia at around 12:10 P.M., he came to know that Dr. Hosaka arrived as a nurse remarked, “Nandiyan na si Dr. Hosaka, dumating na raw.” Upon hearing those words, he went down to the lobby and waited for the operation to be completed (id., pp. 16, 29-30).

At about 12:15 P.M., Herminda Cruz, who was inside the operating room with the patient, heard somebody say that “Dr. Hosaka is already here.” She then saw people inside the operating room “moving, doing this and that, [and] preparing the patient for the operation” (TSN, January 13, 1988, p. 16). As she held the hand of Erlinda Ramos, she then saw Dr. Gutierrez intubating the hapless patient. She thereafter heard Dr. Gutierrez say, “ang hirap ma-intubate nito, mali yata ang pagkakapasok. O lumalaki ang tiyan” (id., p. 17). Because of the remarks of Dra. Gutierrez, she focused her attention on what Dr. Gutierrez was doing. She thereafter noticed bluish discoloration of the nailbeds of the left hand of the hapless Erlinda even as Dr. Hosaka approached her. She then heard Dr. Hosaka issue an order for someone to call Dr. Calderon, another anesthesiologist (id., p. 19). After Dr. Calderon arrived at the operating room, she saw this anesthesiologist trying to intubate the patient. The patient’s nailbed became bluish and the patient was placed in a trendelenburg position - a position where the head of the patient is placed in a position lower than her feet which is an indication that there is a decrease of blood supply to the patient’s brain (Id., pp. 19-20). Immediately thereafter, she went out of the operating room, and she told Rogelio E. Ramos “that something wrong was x x x happening” (Ibid.). Dr. Calderon was then able to intubate the patient (TSN, July 25, 1991, p. 9).

Meanwhile, Rogelio, who was outside the operating room, saw a respiratory machine being rushed towards the door of the operating room. He also saw several doctors rushing towards the operating room. When informed by Herminda Cruz that something wrong was happening, he told her (Herminda) to be back with the patient inside the operating room (TSN, October 19, 1989, pp. 25-28).

Herminda Cruz immediately rushed back, and saw that the patient was still in trendelenburg position (TSN, January 13, 1988, p. 20). At almost 3:00 P.M. of that fateful day, she saw the patient taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

About two days thereafter, Rogelio E. Ramos was able to talk to Dr. Hosaka. The latter informed the former that something went wrong during the intubation. Reacting to what was told to him, Rogelio reminded the doctor that the condition of his wife would not have happened, had he (Dr. Hosaka) looked for a good anesthesiologist (TSN, October 19, 1989, p. 31).

Doctors Gutierrez and Hosaka were also asked by the hospital to explain what happened to the patient. The doctors explained that the patient had bronchospasm (TSN, November 15, 1990, pp. 26-27).

Erlinda Ramos stayed at the ICU for a month. About four months thereafter or on November 15, 1985, the patient was released from the hospital.

During the whole period of her confinement, she incurred hospital bills amounting to P93,542.25 which is the subject of a promissory note and affidavit of undertaking executed by Rogelio E. Ramos in favor of DLSMC. Since that fateful afternoon of June 17, 1985, she has been in a comatose condition. She cannot do anything. She cannot move any part of her body. She cannot see or hear. She is living on mechanical means. She suffered brain damage as a result of the absence of oxygen in her brain for four to five minutes (TSN, November 9, 1989, pp. 21-22). After being discharged from the hospital, she has been staying in their residence, still needing constant medical attention, with her husband Rogelio incurring a monthly expense ranging from P8,000.00 to P10,000.00 (TSN, October 19, 1989, pp. 32-34). She was also diagnosed to be suffering from “diffuse cerebral parenchymal damage” (Exh. “G”; see also TSN, December 21, 1989, p. 6).

Thus, on 8 January 1986, petitioners filed a civil case for damages with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City against herein private respondents alleging negligence in the management and care of Erlinda Ramos.

X x x.

After evaluating the evidence as shown in the finding of facts set forth earlier, and applying the aforecited provisions of law and jurisprudence to the case at bar, this Court finds and so holds that defendants are liable to plaintiffs for damages. The defendants were guilty of, at the very least, negligence in the performance of their duty to plaintiff-patient Erlinda Ramos.

On the part of Dr. Perfecta Gutierrez, this Court finds that she omitted to exercise reasonable care in not only intubating the patient, but also in not repeating the administration of atropine (TSN, August 20, 1991, pp. 5-10), without due regard to the fact that the patient was inside the operating room for almost three (3) hours. For after she committed a mistake in intubating [the] patient, the patient's nailbed became bluish and the patient, thereafter, was placed in trendelenburg position, because of the decrease of blood supply to the patient's brain. The evidence further shows that the hapless patient suffered brain damage because of the absence of oxygen in her (patient's) brain for approximately four to five minutes which, in turn, caused the patient to become comatose.

On the part of Dr. Orlino Hosaka, this Court finds that he is liable for the acts of Dr. Perfecta Gutierrez whom he had chosen to administer anesthesia on the patient as part of his obligation to provide the patient a `good anesthesiologist', and for arriving for the scheduled operation almost three (3) hours late.

On the part of DLSMC (the hospital), this Court finds that it is liable for the acts of negligence of the doctors in their `practice of medicine' in the operating room. Moreover, the hospital is liable for failing through its responsible officials, to cancel the scheduled operation after Dr. Hosaka inexcusably failed to arrive on time.

In having held thus, this Court rejects the defense raised by defendants that they have acted with due care and prudence in rendering medical services to plaintiff-patient. For if the patient was properly intubated as claimed by them, the patient would not have become comatose. And, the fact that another anesthesiologist was called to try to intubate the patient after her (the patient's) nailbed turned bluish, belie their claim. Furthermore, the defendants should have rescheduled the operation to a later date. This, they should have done, if defendants acted with due care and prudence as the patient's case was an elective, not an emergency case.

x x x

WHEREFORE, and in view of the foregoing, judgment is rendered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants. Accordingly, the latter are ordered to pay, jointly and severally, the former the following sums of money, to wit:
1) the sum of P8,000.00 as actual monthly expenses for the plaintiff Erlinda Ramos reckoned from November 15, 1985 or in the total sum of P632,000.00 as of April 15, 1992, subject to its being updated;
2) the sum of P100,000.00 as reasonable attorney's fees;
3) the sum of P800,000.00 by way of moral damages and the further sum of P200,000.00 by way of exemplary damages; and,
4) the costs of the suit.

SO ORDERED.

Private respondents seasonably interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court rendered a Decision, dated 29 May 1995, reversing the findings of the trial court. The decretal portion of the decision of the appellate court reads:
WHEREFORE, for the foregoing premises the appealed decision is hereby REVERSED, and the complaint below against the appellants is hereby ordered DISMISSED. The counterclaim of appellant De Los Santos Medical Center is GRANTED but only insofar as appellees are hereby ordered to pay the unpaid hospital bills amounting to P93,542.25, plus legal interest for justice must be tempered with mercy.

SO ORDERED.

X x x.

Petitioners assail the decision of the Court of Appeals on the following grounds:

I
IN PUTTING MUCH RELIANCE ON THE TESTIMONIES OF RESPONDENTS DRA. GUTIERREZ, DRA. CALDERON AND DR. JAMORA;

II
IN FINDING THAT THE NEGLIGENCE OF THE RESPONDENTS DID NOT CAUSE THE UNFORTUNATE COMATOSE CONDITION OF PETITIONER ERLINDA RAMOS;

III
IN NOT APPLYING THE DOCTRINE OF RES IPSA LOQUITUR.
Before we discuss the merits of the case, we shall first dispose of the procedural issue on the timeliness of the petition in relation to the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners with the Court of Appeals. In their Comment, private respondents contend that the petition should not be given due course since the motion for reconsideration of the petitioners on the decision of the Court of Appeals was validly dismissed by the appellate court for having been filed beyond the reglementary period. We do not agree.

A careful review of the records reveals that the reason behind the delay in filing the motion for reconsideration is attributable to the fact that the decision of the Court of Appeals was not sent to then counsel on record of petitioners, the Coronel Law Office. In fact, a copy of the decision of the appellate court was instead sent to and received by petitioner Rogelio Ramos on 9 June 1995 wherein he was mistakenly addressed as Atty. Rogelio Ramos. Based on the other communications received by petitioner Rogelio Ramos, the appellate court apparently mistook him for the counsel on record. Thus, no copy of the decision of the appellate court was furnished to the counsel on record. Petitioner, not being a lawyer and unaware of the prescriptive period for filing a motion for reconsideration, referred the same to a legal counsel only on 20 June 1995.

It is elementary that when a party is represented by counsel, all notices should be sent to the party’s lawyer at his given address. With a few exceptions, notice to a litigant without notice to his counsel on record is no notice at all. In the present case, since a copy of the decision of the appellate court was not sent to the counsel on record of petitioner, there can be no sufficient notice to speak of. Hence, the delay in the filing of the motion for reconsideration cannot be taken against petitioner. Moreover, since the Court of Appeals already issued a second Resolution, dated 29 March 1996, which superseded the earlier resolution issued on 25 July 1995, and denied the motion for reconsideration of petitioner, we believe that the receipt of the former should be considered in determining the timeliness of the filing of the present petition. Based on this, the petition before us was submitted on time.

After resolving the foregoing procedural issue, we shall now look into the merits of the case. For a more logical presentation of the discussion we shall first consider the issue on the applicability of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to the instant case. Thereafter, the first two assigned errors shall be tackled in relation to the res ipsa loquitur doctrine.

Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase which literally means “the thing or the transaction speaks for itself.” The phrase “res ipsa loquitur” is a maxim for the rule that the fact of the occurrence of an injury, taken with the surrounding circumstances, may permit an inference or raise a presumption of negligence, or make out a plaintiff’s prima facie case, and present a question of fact for defendant to meet with an explanation. Where the thing which caused the injury complained of is shown to be under the management of the defendant or his servants and the accident is such as in ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have its management or control use proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of explanation by the defendant, that the accident arose from or was caused by the defendant’s want of care.

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is simply a recognition of the postulate that, as a matter of common knowledge and experience, the very nature of certain types of occurrences may justify an inference of negligence on the part of the person who controls the instrumentality causing the injury in the absence of some explanation by the defendant who is charged with negligence. It is grounded in the superior logic of ordinary human experience and on the basis of such experience or common knowledge, negligence may be deduced from the mere occurrence of the accident itself. Hence, res ipsa loquitur is applied in conjunction with the doctrine of common knowledge.

However, much has been said that res ipsa loquitur is not a rule of substantive law and, as such, does not create or constitute an independent or separate ground of liability. Instead, it is considered as merely evidentiary or in the nature of a procedural rule. It is regarded as a mode of proof, or a mere procedural convenience since it furnishes a substitute for, and relieves a plaintiff of, the burden of producing specific proof of negligence. In other words, mere invocation and application of the doctrine does not dispense with the requirement of proof of negligence. It is simply a step in the process of such proof, permitting the plaintiff to present along with the proof of the accident, enough of the attending circumstances to invoke the doctrine, creating an inference or presumption of negligence, and to thereby place on the defendant the burden of going forward with the proof. Still, before resort to the doctrine may be allowed, the following requisites must be satisfactorily shown:

1. The accident is of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone’s negligence;
2. It is caused by an instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant or defendants; and
3. The possibility of contributing conduct which would make the plaintiff responsible is eliminated.
In the above requisites, the fundamental element is the “control of the instrumentality” which caused the damage. Such element of control must be shown to be within the dominion of the defendant. In order to have the benefit of the rule, a plaintiff, in addition to proving injury or damage, must show a situation where it is applicable, and must establish that the essential elements of the doctrine were present in a particular incident.

Medical malpracticecases do not escape the application of this doctrine. Thus, res ipsa loquitur has been applied when the circumstances attendant upon the harm are themselves of such a character as to justify an inference of negligence as the cause of that harm. The application of res ipsa loquitur in medical negligence cases presents a question of law since it is a judicial function to determine whether a certain set of circumstances does, as a matter of law, permit a given inference.

Although generally, expert medical testimony is relied upon in malpractice suits to prove that a physician has done a negligent act or that he has deviated from the standard medical procedure, when the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is availed by the plaintiff, the need for expert medical testimony is dispensed with because the injury itself provides the proof of negligence. The reason is that the general rule on the necessity of expert testimony applies only to such matters clearly within the domain of medical science, and not to matters that are within the common knowledge of mankind which may be testified to by anyone familiar with the facts. Ordinarily, only physicians and surgeons of skill and experience are competent to testify as to whether a patient has been treated or operated upon with a reasonable degree of skill and care. However, testimony as to the statements and acts of physicians and surgeons, external appearances, and manifest conditions which are observable by any one may be given by non-expert witnesses. Hence, in cases where the res ipsa loquitur is applicable, the court is permitted to find a physician negligent upon proper proof of injury to the patient, without the aid of expert testimony, where the court from its fund of common knowledge can determine the proper standard of care. Where common knowledge and experience teach that a resulting injury would not have occurred to the patient if due care had been exercised, an inference of negligence may be drawn giving rise to an application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur without medical evidence, which is ordinarily required to show not only what occurred but how and why it occurred. When the doctrine is appropriate, all that the patient must do is prove a nexus between the particular act or omission complained of and the injury sustained while under the custody and management of the defendant without need to produce expert medical testimony to establish the standard of care. Resort to res ipsa loquitur is allowed because there is no other way, under usual and ordinary conditions, by which the patient can obtain redress for injury suffered by him.

Thus, courts of other jurisdictions have applied the doctrine in the following situations: leaving of a foreign object in the body of the patient after an operation, injuries sustained on a healthy part of the body which was not under, or in the area, of treatment, removal of the wrong part of the body when another part was intended, knocking out a tooth while a patient’s jaw was under anesthetic for the removal of his tonsils, and loss of an eye while the patient plaintiff was under the influence of anesthetic, during or following an operation for appendicitis, among others.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the scope of res ipsa loquitur has been measurably enlarged, it does not automatically apply to all cases of medical negligence as to mechanically shift the burden of proof to the defendant to show that he is not guilty of the ascribed negligence. Res ipsa loquitur is not a rigid or ordinary doctrine to be perfunctorily used but a rule to be cautiously applied, depending upon the circumstances of each case. It is generally restricted to situations in malpractice cases where a layman is able to say, as a matter of common knowledge and observation, that the consequences of professional care were not as such as would ordinarily have followed if due care had been exercised. A distinction must be made between the failure to secure results, and the occurrence of something more unusual and not ordinarily found if the service or treatment rendered followed the usual procedure of those skilled in that particular practice. It must be conceded that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur can have no application in a suit against a physician or surgeon which involves the merits of a diagnosis or of a scientific treatment. The physician or surgeon is not required at his peril to explain why any particular diagnosis was not correct, or why any particular scientific treatment did not produce the desired result. Thus, res ipsa loquitur is not available in a malpractice suit if the only showing is that the desired result of an operation or treatment was not accomplished. The real question, therefore, is whether or not in the process of the operation any extraordinary incident or unusual event outside of the routine performance occurred which is beyond the regular scope of customary professional activity in such operations, which, if unexplained would themselves reasonably speak to the average man as the negligent cause or causes of the untoward consequence. If there was such extraneous interventions, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur may be utilized and the defendant is called upon to explain the matter, by evidence of exculpation, if he could.

We find the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur appropriate in the case at bar. As will hereinafter be explained, the damage sustained by Erlinda in her brain prior to a scheduled gall bladder operation presents a case for the application of res ipsa loquitur.

A case strikingly similar to the one before us is Voss vs. Bridwell, where the Kansas Supreme Court in applying the res ipsa loquitur stated:

The plaintiff herein submitted himself for a mastoid operation and delivered his person over to the care, custody and control of his physician who had complete and exclusive control over him, but the operation was never performed. At the time of submission he was neurologically sound and physically fit in mind and body, but he suffered irreparable damage and injury rendering him decerebrate and totally incapacitated. The injury was one which does not ordinarily occur in the process of a mastoid operation or in the absence of negligence in the administration of an anesthetic, and in the use and employment of an endoctracheal tube. Ordinarily a person being put under anesthesia is not rendered decerebrate as a consequence of administering such anesthesia in the absence of negligence. Upon these facts and under these circumstances a layman would be able to say, as a matter of common knowledge and observation, that the consequences of professional treatment were not as such as would ordinarily have followed if due care had been exercised.

Here the plaintiff could not have been guilty of contributory negligence because he was under the influence of anesthetics and unconscious, and the circumstances are such that the true explanation of event is more accessible to the defendants than to the plaintiff for they had the exclusive control of the instrumentalities of anesthesia.

Upon all the facts, conditions and circumstances alleged in Count II it is held that a cause of action is stated under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

Indeed, the principles enunciated in the aforequoted case apply with equal force here. In the present case, Erlinda submitted herself for cholecystectomy and expected a routine general surgery to be performed on her gall bladder. On that fateful day she delivered her person over to the care, custody and control of private respondents who exercised complete and exclusive control over her. At the time of submission, Erlinda was neurologically sound and, except for a few minor discomforts, was likewise physically fit in mind and body. However, during the administration of anesthesia and prior to the performance of cholecystectomy she suffered irreparable damage to her brain. Thus, without undergoing surgery, she went out of the operating room already decerebrate and totally incapacitated.

Obviously, brain damage, which Erlinda sustained, is an injury which does not normally occur in the process of a gall bladder operation. In fact, this kind of situation does not happen in the absence of negligence of someone in the administration of anesthesia and in the use of endotracheal tube. Normally, a person being put under anesthesia is not rendered decerebrate as a consequence of administering such anesthesia if the proper procedure was followed. Furthermore, the instruments used in the administration of anesthesia, including the endotracheal tube, were all under the exclusive control of private respondents, who are the physicians-in-charge. Likewise, petitioner Erlinda could not have been guilty of contributory negligence because she was under the influence of anesthetics which rendered her unconscious.

Considering that a sound and unaffected member of the body (the brain) is injured or destroyed while the patient is unconscious and under the immediate and exclusive control of the physicians, we hold that a practical administration of justice dictates the application of res ipsa loquitur. Upon these facts and under these circumstances the Court would be able to say, as a matter of common knowledge and observation, if negligence attended the management and care of the patient.

Moreover, the liability of the physicians and the hospital in this case is not predicated upon an alleged failure to secure the desired results of an operation nor on an alleged lack of skill in the diagnosis or treatment as in fact no operation or treatment was ever performed on Erlinda. Thus, upon all these initial determination a case is made out for the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

Nonetheless, in holding that res ipsa loquitur is available to the present case we are not saying that the doctrine is applicable in any and all cases where injury occurs to a patient while under anesthesia, or to any and all anesthesia cases. Each case must be viewed in its own light and scrutinized in order to be within the res ipsa loquitur coverage.

Having in mind the applicability of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine and the presumption of negligence allowed therein, the Court now comes to the issue of whether the Court of Appeals erred in finding that private respondents were not negligent in the care of Erlinda during the anesthesia phase of the operation and, if in the affirmative, whether the alleged negligence was the proximate cause of Erlinda’s comatose condition. Corollary thereto, we shall also determine if the Court of Appeals erred in relying on the testimonies of the witnesses for the private respondents.

In sustaining the position of private respondents, the Court of Appeals relied on the testimonies of Dra. Gutierrez, Dra. Calderon and Dr. Jamora. In giving weight to the testimony of Dra. Gutierrez, the Court of Appeals rationalized that she was candid enough to admit that she experienced some difficulty in the endotracheal intubationof the patient and thus, cannot be said to be covering her negligence with falsehood. The appellate court likewise opined that private respondents were able to show that the brain damage sustained by Erlinda was not caused by the alleged faulty intubation but was due to the allergic reaction of the patient to the drug Thiopental Sodium (Pentothal), a short-acting barbiturate, as testified on by their expert witness, Dr. Jamora. On the other hand, the appellate court rejected the testimony of Dean Herminda Cruz offered in favor of petitioners that the cause of the brain injury was traceable to the wrongful insertion of the tube since the latter, being a nurse, was allegedly not knowledgeable in the process of intubation. In so holding, the appellate court returned a verdict in favor of respondents physicians and hospital and absolved them of any liability towards Erlinda and her family.

We disagree with the findings of the Court of Appeals. We hold that private respondents were unable to disprove the presumption of negligence on their part in the care of Erlinda and their negligence was the proximate cause of her piteous condition.

In the instant case, the records are helpful in furnishing not only the logical scientific evidence of the pathogenesis of the injury but also in providing the Court the legal nexus upon which liability is based. As will be shown hereinafter, private respondents’ own testimonies which are reflected in the transcript of stenographic notes are replete of signposts indicative of their negligence in the care and management of Erlinda.

With regard to Dra. Gutierrez, we find her negligent in the care of Erlinda during the anesthesia phase. As borne by the records, respondent Dra. Gutierrez failed to properly intubate the patient. This fact was attested to by Prof. Herminda Cruz, Dean of the Capitol Medical Center School of Nursing and petitioner's sister-in-law, who was in the operating room right beside the patient when the tragic event occurred. Witness Cruz testified to this effect:

ATTY. PAJARES:
Q: In particular, what did Dra. Perfecta Gutierrez do, if any on the patient?
A: In particular, I could see that she was intubating the patient.
Q: Do you know what happened to that intubation process administered by Dra. Gutierrez?

ATTY. ALCERA:
She will be incompetent Your Honor.
COURT:
Witness may answer if she knows.
A: As I have said, I was with the patient, I was beside the stretcher holding the left hand of the patient and all of a sudden I heard some remarks coming from Dra. Perfecta Gutierrez herself. She was saying “Ang hirap ma-intubate nito, mali yata ang pagkakapasok. O lumalaki ang tiyan.”
x x x

ATTY. PAJARES:
Q: From whom did you hear those words “lumalaki ang tiyan”?
A: From Dra. Perfecta Gutierrez.
x x x
After hearing the phrase “lumalaki ang tiyan,” what did you notice on the person of the patient?
A: I notice (sic) some bluish discoloration on the nailbeds of the left hand where I was at.
Q: Where was Dr. Orlino Ho[s]aka then at that particular time?
A: I saw him approaching the patient during that time.
Q: When he approached the patient, what did he do, if any?
A: He made an order to call on the anesthesiologist in the person of Dr. Calderon.
Q: Did Dr. Calderon, upon being called, arrive inside the operating room?
A: Yes sir.
Q: What did [s]he do, if any?
A: [S]he tried to intubate the patient.
Q: What happened to the patient?
A: When Dr. Calderon try (sic) to intubate the patient, after a while the patient’s nailbed became bluish and I saw the patient was placed in trendelenburg position.
x x x
Q: Do you know the reason why the patient was placed in that trendelenburg position?
A: As far as I know, when a patient is in that position, there is a decrease of blood supply to the brain.
x x x

The appellate court, however, disbelieved Dean Cruz's testimony in the trial court by declaring that:

A perusal of the standard nursing curriculum in our country will show that intubation is not taught as part of nursing procedures and techniques. Indeed, we take judicial notice of the fact that nurses do not, and cannot, intubate. Even on the assumption that she is fully capable of determining whether or not a patient is properly intubated, witness Herminda Cruz, admittedly, did not peep into the throat of the patient. (TSN, July 25, 1991, p. 13). More importantly, there is no evidence that she ever auscultated the patient or that she conducted any type of examination to check if the endotracheal tube was in its proper place, and to determine the condition of the heart, lungs, and other organs. Thus, witness Cruz's categorical statements that appellant Dra. Gutierrez failed to intubate the appellee Erlinda Ramos and that it was Dra. Calderon who succeeded in doing so clearly suffer from lack of sufficient factual bases.

In other words, what the Court of Appeals is trying to impress is that being a nurse, and considered a layman in the process of intubation, witness Cruz is not competent to testify on whether or not the intubation was a success.

We do not agree with the above reasoning of the appellate court. Although witness Cruz is not an anesthesiologist, she can very well testify upon matters on which she is capable of observing such as, the statements and acts of the physician and surgeon, external appearances, and manifest conditions which are observable by any one. This is precisely allowed under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur where the testimony of expert witnesses is not required. It is the accepted rule that expert testimony is not necessary for the proof of negligence in non-technical matters or those of which an ordinary person may be expected to have knowledge, or where the lack of skill or want of care is so obvious as to render expert testimony unnecessary. We take judicial notice of the fact that anesthesia procedures have become so common, that even an ordinary person can tell if it was administered properly. As such, it would not be too difficult to tell if the tube was properly inserted. This kind of observation, we believe, does not require a medical degree to be acceptable.

At any rate, without doubt, petitioner's witness, an experienced clinical nurse
whose long experience and scholarship led to her appointment as Dean of the Capitol Medical Center School of Nursing, was fully capable of determining whether or not the intubation was a success. She had extensive clinical experience starting as a staff nurse in Chicago, Illinois; staff nurse and clinical instructor in a teaching hospital, the FEU-NRMF; Dean of the Laguna College of Nursing in San Pablo City; and then Dean of the Capitol Medical Center School of Nursing.Reviewing witness Cruz' statements, we find that the same were delivered in a straightforward manner, with the kind of detail, clarity, consistency and spontaneity which would have been difficult to fabricate. With her clinical background as a nurse, the Court is satisfied that she was able to demonstrate through her testimony what truly transpired on that fateful day.

Most of all, her testimony was affirmed by no less than respondent Dra. Gutierrez who admitted that she experienced difficulty in inserting the tube into Erlinda’s trachea, to wit:

ATTY. LIGSAY:
Q: In this particular case, Doctora, while you were intubating at your first attempt (sic), you did not immediately see the trachea?
DRA. GUTIERREZ:
A: Yes sir.
Q: Did you pull away the tube immediately?
A: You do not pull the ...
Q: Did you or did you not?
A: I did not pull the tube.
Q: When you said “mahirap yata ito,” what were you referring to?
A: “Mahirap yata itong i-intubate,” that was the patient.
Q: So, you found some difficulty in inserting the tube?
A: Yes, because of (sic) my first attempt, I did not see right away.

Curiously in the case at bar, respondent Dra. Gutierrez made the haphazard defense that she encountered hardship in the insertion of the tube in the trachea of Erlinda because it was positioned more anteriorly (slightly deviated from the normal anatomy of a person) making it harder to locate and, since Erlinda is obese and has a short neck and protruding teeth, it made intubation even more difficult.

The argument does not convince us. If this was indeed observed, private respondents adduced no evidence demonstrating that they proceeded to make a thorough assessment of Erlinda’s airway, prior to the induction of anesthesia, even if this would mean postponing the procedure. From their testimonies, it appears that the observation was made only as an afterthought, as a means of defense.

The pre-operative evaluation of a patient prior to the administration of anesthesia is universally observed to lessen the possibility of anesthetic accidents. Pre-operative evaluation and preparation for anesthesia begins when the anesthesiologist reviews the patient’s medical records and visits with the patient, traditionally, the day before elective surgery. It includes taking the patient’s medical history, review of current drug therapy, physical examination and interpretation of laboratory data. The physical examination performed by the anesthesiologist is directed primarily toward the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, lungs and upper airway. A thorough analysis of the patient's airway normally involves investigating the following: cervical spine mobility, temporomandibular mobility, prominent central incisors, diseased or artificial teeth, ability to visualize uvula and the thyromental distance. Thus, physical characteristics of the patient’s upper airway that could make tracheal intubation difficult should be studied. Where the need arises, as when initial assessment indicates possible problems (such as the alleged short neck and protruding teeth of Erlinda) a thorough examination of the patient’s airway would go a long way towards decreasing patient morbidity and mortality.

In the case at bar, respondent Dra. Gutierrez admitted that she saw Erlinda for the first time on the day of the operation itself, on 17 June 1985. Before this date, no prior consultations with, or pre-operative evaluation of Erlinda was done by her. Until the day of the operation, respondent Dra. Gutierrez was unaware of the physiological make-up and needs of Erlinda. She was likewise not properly informed of the possible difficulties she would face during the administration of anesthesia to Erlinda. Respondent Dra. Gutierrez’ act of seeing her patient for the first time only an hour before the scheduled operative procedure was, therefore, an act of exceptional negligence and professional irresponsibility. The measures cautioning prudence and vigilance in dealing with human lives lie at the core of the physician’s centuries-old Hippocratic Oath. Her failure to follow this medical procedure is, therefore, a clear indicia of her negligence.

Respondent Dra. Gutierrez, however, attempts to gloss over this omission by playing around with the trial court's ignorance of clinical procedure, hoping that she could get away with it. Respondent Dra. Gutierrez tried to muddle the difference between an elective surgery and an emergency surgery just so her failure to perform the required pre-operative evaluation would escape unnoticed. In her testimony she asserted:

ATTY. LIGSAY:
Q: Would you agree, Doctor, that it is good medical practice to see the patient a day before so you can introduce yourself to establish good doctor-patient relationship and gain the trust and confidence of the patient?
DRA. GUTIERREZ:
A: As I said in my previous statement, it depends on the operative procedure of the anesthesiologist and in my case, with elective cases and normal cardio-pulmonary clearance like that, I usually don't do it except on emergency and on cases that have an abnormalities (sic).

However, the exact opposite is true. In an emergency procedure, there is hardly enough time available for the fastidious demands of pre-operative procedure so that an anesthesiologist is able to see the patient only a few minutes before surgery, if at all. Elective procedures, on the other hand, are operative procedures that can wait for days, weeks or even months. Hence, in these cases, the anesthesiologist possesses the luxury of time to make a proper assessment, including the time to be at the patient's bedside to do a proper interview and clinical evaluation. There is ample time to explain the method of anesthesia, the drugs to be used, and their possible hazards for purposes of informed consent. Usually, the pre-operative assessment is conducted at least one day before the intended surgery, when the patient is relaxed and cooperative.

Erlinda’s case was elective and this was known to respondent Dra. Gutierrez. Thus, she had all the time to make a thorough evaluation of Erlinda’s case prior to the operation and prepare her for anesthesia. However, she never saw the patient at the bedside. She herself admitted that she had seen petitioner only in the operating room, and only on the actual date of the cholecystectomy. She negligently failed to take advantage of this important opportunity. As such, her attempt to exculpate herself must fail.

Having established that respondent Dra. Gutierrez failed to perform pre-operative evaluation of the patient which, in turn, resulted to a wrongful intubation, we now determine if the faulty intubation is truly the proximate cause of Erlinda’s comatose condition.

Private respondents repeatedly hammered the view that the cerebral anoxia which led to Erlinda’s coma was due to bronchospasm mediated by her allergic response to the drug, Thiopental Sodium, introduced into her system. Towards this end, they presented Dr. Jamora, a Fellow of the Philippine College of Physicians and Diplomate of the Philippine Specialty Board of Internal Medicine, who advanced private respondents' theory that the oxygen deprivation which led to anoxic encephalopathy, was due to an unpredictable drug reaction to the short-acting barbiturate. We find the theory of private respondents unacceptable.

First of all, Dr. Jamora cannot be considered an authority in the field of anesthesiology simply because he is not an anesthesiologist. Since Dr. Jamora is a pulmonologist, he could not have been capable of properly enlightening the court about anesthesia practice and procedure and their complications. Dr. Jamora is likewise not an allergologist and could not therefore properly advance expert opinion on allergic-mediated processes. Moreover, he is not a pharmacologist and, as such, could not have been capable, as an expert would, of explaining to the court the pharmacologic and toxic effects of the supposed culprit, Thiopental Sodium (Pentothal).

The inappropriateness and absurdity of accepting Dr. Jamora’s testimony as an expert witness in the anesthetic practice of Pentothal administration is further supported by his own admission that he formulated his opinions on the drug not from the practical experience gained by a specialist or expert in the administration and use of Sodium Pentothal on patients, but only from reading certain references, to wit:

ATTY. LIGSAY:
Q: In your line of expertise on pulmonology, did you have any occasion to use pentothal as a method of management?
DR. JAMORA:
A: We do it in conjunction with the anesthesiologist when they have to intubate our patient.
Q: But not in particular when you practice pulmonology?
A: No.
Q: In other words, your knowledge about pentothal is based only on what you have read from books and not by your own personal application of the medicine pentothal?
A: Based on my personal experience also on pentothal.
Q: How many times have you used pentothal?
A: They used it on me. I went into bronchospasm during my appendectomy.
Q: And because they have used it on you and on account of your own personal experience you feel that you can testify on pentothal here with medical authority?
A: No. That is why I used references to support my claims.

An anesthetic accident caused by a rare drug-induced bronchospasm properly falls within the fields of anesthesia, internal medicine-allergy, and clinical pharmacology. The resulting anoxic encephalopathy belongs to the field of neurology. While admittedly, many bronchospastic-mediated pulmonary diseases are within the expertise of pulmonary medicine, Dr. Jamora's field, the anesthetic drug-induced, allergic mediated bronchospasm alleged in this case is within the disciplines of anesthesiology, allergology and pharmacology. On the basis of the foregoing transcript, in which the pulmonologist himself admitted that he could not testify about the drug with medical authority, it is clear that the appellate court erred in giving weight to Dr. Jamora’s testimony as an expert in the administration of Thiopental Sodium.

The provision in the rules of evidenceregarding expert witnesses states:
Sec. 49. Opinion of expert witness. - The opinion of a witness on a matter requiring special knowledge, skill, experience or training which he is shown to possess, may be received in evidence.

Generally, to qualify as an expert witness, one must have acquired special knowledge of the subject matter about which he or she is to testify, either by the study of recognized authorities on the subject or by practical experience. Clearly, Dr. Jamora does not qualify as an expert witness based on the above standard since he lacks the necessary knowledge, skill, and training in the field of anesthesiology. Oddly, apart from submitting testimony from a specialist in the wrong field, private respondents’ intentionally avoided providing testimony by competent and independent experts in the proper areas.

Moreover, private respondents’ theory, that Thiopental Sodium may have produced Erlinda's coma by triggering an allergic mediated response, has no support in evidence. No evidence of stridor, skin reactions, or wheezing - some of the more common accompanying signs of an allergic reaction - appears on record. No laboratory data were ever presented to the court.

In any case, private respondents themselves admit that Thiopental induced, allergic-mediated bronchospasm happens only very rarely. If courts were to accept private respondents' hypothesis without supporting medical proof, and against the weight of available evidence, then every anesthetic accident would be an act of God. Evidently, the Thiopental-allergy theory vigorously asserted by private respondents was a mere afterthought. Such an explanation was advanced in order to absolve them of any and all responsibility for the patient’s condition.

In view of the evidence at hand, we are inclined to believe petitioners’ stand that it was the faulty intubation which was the proximate cause of Erlinda’s comatose condition.

Proximate cause has been defined as that which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces injury, and without which the result would not have occurred. An injury or damage is proximately caused by an act or a failure to act, whenever it appears from the evidence in the case, that the act or omission played a substantial part in bringing about or actually causing the injury or damage; and that the injury or damage was either a direct result or a reasonably probable consequence of the act or omission. It is the dominant, moving or producing cause.

Applying the above definition in relation to the evidence at hand, faulty intubation is undeniably the proximate cause which triggered the chain of events leading to Erlinda’s brain damage and, ultimately, her comatosed condition.

Private respondents themselves admitted in their testimony that the first intubation was a failure. This fact was likewise observed by witness Cruz when she heard respondent Dra. Gutierrez remarked, “Ang hirap ma-intubate nito, mali yata ang pagkakapasok. O lumalaki ang tiyan.” Thereafter, witness Cruz noticed abdominal distention on the body of Erlinda. The development of abdominal distention, together with respiratory embarrassment indicates that the endotracheal tube entered the esophagus instead of the respiratory tree. In other words, instead of the intended endotracheal intubation what actually took place was an esophageal intubation. During intubation, such distention indicates that air has entered the gastrointestinal tract through the esophagus instead of the lungs through the trachea. Entry into the esophagus would certainly cause some delay in oxygen delivery into the lungs as the tube which carries oxygen is in the wrong place.

That abdominal distention had been observed during the first intubation suggests that the length of time utilized in inserting the endotracheal tube (up to the time the tube was withdrawn for the second attempt) was fairly significant. Due to the delay in the delivery of oxygen in her lungs Erlinda showed signs of cyanosis. As stated in the testimony of Dr. Hosaka, the lack of oxygen became apparent only after he noticed that the nailbeds of Erlinda were already blue. However, private respondents contend that a second intubation was executed on Erlinda and this one was successfully done. We do not think so. No evidence exists on record, beyond private respondents' bare claims, which supports the contention that the second intubation was successful. Assuming that the endotracheal tube finally found its way into the proper orifice of the trachea, the same gave no guarantee of oxygen delivery, the hallmark of a successful intubation. In fact, cyanosis was again observed immediately after the second intubation. Proceeding from this event (cyanosis), it could not be claimed, as private respondents insist, that the second intubation was accomplished. Even granting that the tube was successfully inserted during the second attempt, it was obviously too late. As aptly explained by the trial court, Erlinda already suffered brain damage as a result of the inadequate oxygenation of her brain for about four to five minutes.

The above conclusion is not without basis. Scientific studies point out that intubation problems are responsible for one-third (1/3) of deaths and serious injuries associated with anesthesia. Nevertheless, ninety-eight percent (98%) or the vast majority of difficult intubations may be anticipated by performing a thorough evaluation of the patient’s airway prior to the operation. As stated beforehand, respondent Dra. Gutierrez failed to observe the proper pre-operative protocol which could have prevented this unfortunate incident. Had appropriate diligence and reasonable care been used in the pre-operative evaluation, respondent physician could have been much more prepared to meet the contingency brought about by the perceived anatomic variations in the patient’s neck and oral area, defects which would have been easily overcome by a prior knowledge of those variations together with a change in technique. In other words, an experienced anesthesiologist, adequately alerted by a thorough pre-operative evaluation, would have had little difficulty going around the short neck and protruding teeth. Having failed to observe common medical standards in pre-operative management and intubation, respondent Dra. Gutierrez’ negligence resulted in cerebral anoxia and eventual coma of Erlinda.

We now determine the responsibility of respondent Dr. Orlino Hosaka as the head of the surgical team. As the so-called “captain of the ship,” it is the surgeon’s responsibility to see to it that those under him perform their task in the proper manner. Respondent Dr. Hosaka’s negligence can be found in his failure to exercise the proper authority (as the “captain” of the operative team) in not determining if his anesthesiologist observed proper anesthesia protocols. In fact, no evidence on record exists to show that respondent Dr. Hosaka verified if respondent Dra.

Gutierrez properly intubated the patient. Furthermore, it does not escape us that respondent Dr. Hosaka had scheduled another procedure in a different hospital at the same time as Erlinda’s cholecystectomy, and was in fact over three hours late for the latter’s operation. Because of this, he had little or no time to confer with his anesthesiologist regarding the anesthesia delivery. This indicates that he was remiss in his professional duties towards his patient. Thus, he shares equal responsibility for the events which resulted in Erlinda’s condition.

We now discuss the responsibility of the hospital in this particular incident. The unique practice (among private hospitals) of filling up specialist staff with attending and visiting “consultants,” who are allegedly not hospital employees, presents problems in apportioning responsibility for negligence in medical malpractice cases. However, the difficulty is only more apparent than real.
In the first place, hospitals exercise significant control in the hiring and firing of consultants and in the conduct of their work within the hospital premises. Doctors who apply for “consultant” slots, visiting or attending, are required to submit proof of completion of residency, their educational qualifications; generally, evidence of accreditation by the appropriate board (diplomate), evidence of fellowship in most cases, and references. These requirements are carefully scrutinized by members of the hospital administration or by a review committee set up by the hospital who either accept or reject the application. This is particularly true with respondent hospital.

After a physician is accepted, either as a visiting or attending consultant, he is normally required to attend clinico-pathological conferences, conduct bedside rounds for clerks, interns and residents, moderate grand rounds and patient audits and perform other tasks and responsibilities, for the privilege of being able to maintain a clinic in the hospital, and/or for the privilege of admitting patients into the hospital. In addition to these, the physician’s performance as a specialist is generally evaluated by a peer review committee on the basis of mortality and morbidity statistics, and feedback from patients, nurses, interns and residents. A consultant remiss in his duties, or a consultant who regularly falls short of the minimum standards acceptable to the hospital or its peer review committee, is normally politely terminated.

In other words, private hospitals, hire, fire and exercise real control over their attending and visiting “consultant” staff. While “consultants” are not, technically employees, a point which respondent hospital asserts in denying all responsibility for the patient’s condition, the control exercised, the hiring, and the right to terminate consultants all fulfill the important hallmarks of an employer-employee relationship, with the exception of the payment of wages. In assessing whether such a relationship in fact exists, the control test is determining. Accordingly, on the basis of the foregoing, we rule that for the purpose of allocating responsibility in medical negligence cases, an employer-employee relationship in effect exists between hospitals and their attending and visiting physicians. This being the case, the question now arises as to whether or not respondent hospital is solidarily liable with respondent doctors for petitioner’s condition.

The basis for holding an employer solidarily responsible for the negligence of its employee is found in Article 2180 of the Civil Code which considers a person accountable not only for his own acts but also for those of others based on the former’s responsibility under a relationship of patria potestas. Such responsibility ceases when the persons or entity concerned prove that they have observed the diligence of a good father of the family to prevent damage. In other words, while the burden of proving negligence rests on the plaintiffs, once negligence is shown, the burden shifts to the respondents (parent, guardian, teacher or employer) who should prove that they observed the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage.

In the instant case, respondent hospital, apart from a general denial of its responsibility over respondent physicians, failed to adduce evidence showing that it exercised the diligence of a good father of a family in the hiring and supervision of the latter. It failed to adduce evidence with regard to the degree of supervision which it exercised over its physicians. In neglecting to offer such proof, or proof of a similar nature, respondent hospital thereby failed to discharge its burden under the last paragraph of Article 2180. Having failed to do this, respondent hospital is consequently solidarily responsible with its physicians for Erlinda’s condition.

Based on the foregoing, we hold that the Court of Appeals erred in accepting and relying on the testimonies of the witnesses for the private respondents. Indeed, as shown by the above discussions, private respondents were unable to rebut the presumption of negligence. Upon these disquisitions we hold that private respondents are solidarily liable for damages under Article 2176 of the Civil Code.
We now come to the amount of damages due petitioners. The trial court awarded a total of P632,000.00 pesos (should be P616,000.00) in compensatory damages to the plaintiff, “subject to its being updated” covering the period from 15 November 1985 up to 15 April 1992, based on monthly expenses for the care of the patient estimated at P8,000.00.

At current levels, the P8000/monthly amount established by the trial court at the time of its decision would be grossly inadequate to cover the actual costs of home-based care for a comatose individual. The calculated amount was not even arrived at by looking at the actual cost of proper hospice care for the patient. What it reflected were the actual expenses incurred and proved by the petitioners after they were forced to bring home the patient to avoid mounting hospital bills.
And yet ideally, a comatose patient should remain in a hospital or be transferred to a hospice specializing in the care of the chronically ill for the purpose of providing a proper milieu adequate to meet minimum standards of care. In the instant case for instance, Erlinda has to be constantly turned from side to side to prevent bedsores and hypostatic pneumonia. Feeding is done by nasogastric tube. Food preparation should be normally made by a dietitian to provide her with the correct daily caloric requirements and vitamin supplements. Furthermore, she has to be seen on a regular basis by a physical therapist to avoid muscle atrophy, and by a pulmonary therapist to prevent the accumulation of secretions which can lead to respiratory complications.

Given these considerations, the amount of actual damages recoverable in suits arising from negligence should at least reflect the correct minimum cost of proper care, not the cost of the care the family is usually compelled to undertake at home to avoid bankruptcy. However, the provisions of the Civil Code on actual or compensatory damages present us with some difficulties.

Well-settled is the rule that actual damages which may be claimed by the plaintiff are those suffered by him as he has duly proved. The Civil Code provides:
Art. 2199. - Except as provided by law or by stipulation, one is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. Such compensation is referred to as actual or compensatory damages.
Our rules on actual or compensatory damages generally assume that at the time of litigation, the injury suffered as a consequence of an act of negligence has been completed and that the cost can be liquidated. However, these provisions neglect to take into account those situations, as in this case, where the resulting injury might be continuing and possible future complications directly arising from the injury, while certain to occur, are difficult to predict.

In these cases, the amount of damages which should be awarded, if they are to adequately and correctly respond to the injury caused, should be one which compensates for pecuniary loss incurred and proved, up to the time of trial; and one which would meet pecuniary loss certain to be suffered but which could not, from the nature of the case, be made with certainty. In other words, temperate damages can and should be awarded on top of actual or compensatory damages in instances where the injury is chronic and continuing. And because of the unique nature of such cases, no incompatibility arises when both actual and temperate damages are provided for. The reason is that these damages cover two distinct phases.

As it would not be equitable - and certainly not in the best interests of the administration of justice - for the victim in such cases to constantly come before the courts and invoke their aid in seeking adjustments to the compensatory damages previously awarded - temperate damages are appropriate. The amount given as temperate damages, though to a certain extent speculative, should take into account the cost of proper care.

In the instant case, petitioners were able to provide only home-based nursing care for a comatose patient who has remained in that condition for over a decade. Having premised our award for compensatory damages on the amount provided by petitioners at the onset of litigation, it would be now much more in step with the interests of justice if the value awarded for temperate damages would allow petitioners to provide optimal care for their loved one in a facility which generally specializes in such care. They should not be compelled by dire circumstances to provide substandard care at home without the aid of professionals, for anything less would be grossly inadequate. Under the circumstances, an award of P1,500,000.00 in temperate damages would therefore be reasonable.

In Valenzuela vs. Court of Appeals, this Court was confronted with a situation where the injury suffered by the plaintiff would have led to expenses which were difficult to estimate because while they would have been a direct result of the injury (amputation), and were certain to be incurred by the plaintiff, they were likely to arise only in the future. We awarded P1,000,000.00 in moral damages in that case.
Describing the nature of the injury, the Court therein stated:

As a result of the accident, Ma. Lourdes Valenzuela underwent a traumatic amputation of her left lower extremity at the distal left thigh just above the knee. Because of this, Valenzuela will forever be deprived of the full ambulatory functions of her left extremity, even with the use of state of the art prosthetic technology. Well beyond the period of hospitalization (which was paid for by Li), she will be required to undergo adjustments in her prosthetic devise due to the shrinkage of the stump from the process of healing.

These adjustments entail costs, prosthetic replacements and months of physical and occupational rehabilitation and therapy. During her lifetime, the prosthetic devise will have to be replaced and readjusted to changes in the size of her lower limb effected by the biological changes of middle-age, menopause and aging. Assuming she reaches menopause, for example, the prosthetic will have to be adjusted to respond to the changes in bone resulting from a precipitate decrease in calcium levels observed in the bones of all post-menopausal women. In other words, the damage done to her would not only be permanent and lasting, it would also be permanently changing and adjusting to the physiologic changes which her body would normally undergo through the years. The replacements, changes, and adjustments will require corresponding adjustive physical and occupational therapy. All of these adjustments, it has been documented, are painful.

x x x.

A prosthetic devise, however technologically advanced, will only allow a reasonable amount of functional restoration of the motor functions of the lower limb. The sensory functions are forever lost. The resultant anxiety, sleeplessness, psychological injury, mental and physical pain are inestimable.

The injury suffered by Erlinda as a consequence of private respondents’ negligence is certainly much more serious than the amputation in the Valenzuela case.
Petitioner Erlinda Ramos was in her mid-forties when the incident occurred. She has been in a comatose state for over fourteen years now. The burden of care has so far been heroically shouldered by her husband and children, who, in the intervening years have been deprived of the love of a wife and a mother.

Meanwhile, the actual physical, emotional and financial cost of the care of petitioner would be virtually impossible to quantify. Even the temperate damages herein awarded would be inadequate if petitioner’s condition remains unchanged for the next ten years.

We recognized, in Valenzuela that a discussion of the victim’s actual injury would not even scratch the surface of the resulting moral damage because it would be highly speculative to estimate the amount of emotional and moral pain, psychological damage and injury suffered by the victim or those actually affected by the victim’s condition. The husband and the children, all petitioners in this case, will have to live with the day to day uncertainty of the patient’s illness, knowing any hope of recovery is close to nil. They have fashioned their daily lives around the nursing care of petitioner, altering their long term goals to take into account their life with a comatose patient. They, not the respondents, are charged with the moral responsibility of the care of the victim. The family’s moral injury and suffering in this case is clearly a real one. For the foregoing reasons, an award of P2,000,000.00 in moral damages would be appropriate.

Finally, by way of example, exemplary damages in the amount of P100,000.00 are hereby awarded. Considering the length and nature of the instant suit we are of the opinion that attorney’s fees valued at P100,000.00 are likewise proper.

Our courts face unique difficulty in adjudicating medical negligence cases because physicians are not insurers of life and, they rarely set out to intentionally cause injury or death to their patients. However, intent is immaterial in negligence cases because where negligence exists and is proven, the same automatically gives the injured a right to reparation for the damage caused.

Established medical procedures and practices, though in constant flux are devised for the purpose of preventing complications. A physician’s experience with his patients would sometimes tempt him to deviate from established community practices, and he may end a distinguished career using unorthodox methods without incident. However, when failure to follow established procedure results in the evil precisely sought to be averted by observance of the procedure and a nexus is made between the deviation and the injury or damage, the physician would necessarily be called to account for it. In the case at bar, the failure to observe pre-operative assessment protocol which would have influenced the intubation in a salutary way was fatal to private respondents’ case.

WHEREFORE, the decision and resolution of the appellate court appealed from are hereby modified so as to award in favor of petitioners, and solidarily against private respondents the following: 1) P1,352,000.00 as actual damages computed as of the date of promulgation of this decision plus a monthly payment of P8,000.00 up to the time that petitioner Erlinda Ramos expires or miraculously survives; 2) P2,000,000.00 as moral damages, 3) P1,500,000.00 as temperate damages; 4) P100,000.00 each as exemplary damages and attorney’s fees; and, 5) the costs of the suit.

SO ORDERED.

2002 DECISION ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
IN RE: RAMOS VS. COURT OF APEALS.
(MODIFYING THE 199 DECISION;
ABSOLVING THE HOSPITAL)

ROGELIO E. RAMOS and ERLINDA RAMOS, et. al. vs. vs. COURT OF APPEALS, et. al., G.R. No. 124354, April 11, 2002.

X x x.

The Court enumerated the issues to be resolved in this case as follows:

1. WHETHER OR NOT DR. ORLINO HOSAKA (SURGEON) IS LIABLE FOR NEGLIGENCE;
2. WHETHER OR NOT DR. PERFECTA GUTIERREZ (ANESTHESIOLOGIST) IS LIABLE FOR NEGLIGENCE; AND
3. WHETHER OR NOT THE HOSPITAL (DELOS SANTOS MEDICAL CENTER) IS LIABLE FOR ANY ACT OF NEGLIGENCE COMMITTED BY THEIR VISITING CONSULTANT SURGEON AND ANESTHESIOLOGIST.

We shall first resolve the issue pertaining to private respondent Dr. Gutierrez. She maintains that the Court erred in finding her negligent and in holding that it was the faulty intubation which was the proximate cause of Erlinda’s comatose condition. The following objective facts allegedly negate a finding of negligence on her part: 1) That the outcome of the procedure was a comatose patient and not a dead one; 2) That the patient had a cardiac arrest; and 3) That the patient was revived from that cardiac arrest. In effect, Dr. Gutierrez insists that, contrary to the finding of this Court, the intubation she performed on Erlinda was successful.
Unfortunately, Dr. Gutierrez’ claim of lack of negligence on her part is belied by the records of the case. It has been sufficiently established that she failed to exercise the standards of care in the administration of anesthesia on a patient. Dr. Egay enlightened the Court on what these standards are:

x x x What are the standards of care that an anesthesiologist should do before we administer anesthesia? The initial step is the preparation of the patient for surgery and this is a pre-operative evaluation because the anesthesiologist is responsible for determining the medical status of the patient, developing the anesthesia plan and acquainting the patient or the responsible adult particularly if we are referring with the patient or to adult patient who may not have, who may have some mental handicaps of the proposed plans. We do pre-operative evaluation because this provides for an opportunity for us to establish identification and personal acquaintance with the patient. It also makes us have an opportunity to alleviate anxiety, explain techniques and risks to the patient, given the patient the choice and establishing consent to proceed with the plan. And lastly, once this has been agreed upon by all parties concerned the ordering of pre-operative medications. And following this line at the end of the evaluation we usually come up on writing, documentation is very important as far as when we train an anesthesiologist we always emphasize this because we need records for our protection, well, records. And it entails having brief summary of patient history and physical findings pertinent to anesthesia, plan, organize as a problem list, the plan anesthesia technique, the plan post operative, pain management if appropriate, special issues for this particular patient. There are needs for special care after surgery and if it so it must be written down there and a request must be made known to proper authorities that such and such care is necessary. And the request for medical evaluation if there is an indication. When we ask for a cardio-pulmonary clearance it is not in fact to tell them if this patient is going to be fit for anesthesia, the decision to give anesthesia rests on the anesthesiologist. What we ask them is actually to give us the functional capacity of certain systems which maybe affected by the anesthetic agent or the technique that we are going to use. But the burden of responsibility in terms of selection of agent and how to administer it rest on the anesthesiologist.

The conduct of a preanesthetic/preoperative evaluation prior to an operation, whether elective or emergency, cannot be dispensed with. Such evaluation is necessary for the formulation of a plan of anesthesia care suited to the needs of the patient concerned.

Pre-evaluation for anesthesia involves taking the patient’s medical history, reviewing his current drug therapy, conducting physical examination, interpreting laboratory data, and determining the appropriate prescription of preoperative medications as necessary to the conduct of anesthesia.

Physical examination of the patient entails not only evaluating the patient’s central nervous system, cardiovascular system and lungs but also the upper airway. Examination of the upper airway would in turn include an analysis of the patient’s cervical spine mobility, temporomandibular mobility, prominent central incisors, deceased or artificial teeth, ability to visualize uvula and the thyromental distance.

Nonetheless, Dr. Gutierrez omitted to perform a thorough preoperative evaluation on Erlinda. As she herself admitted, she saw Erlinda for the first time on the day of the operation itself, one hour before the scheduled operation. She auscultated the patient’s heart and lungs and checked the latter’s blood pressure to determine if Erlinda was indeed fit for operation. However, she did not proceed to examine the patient’s airway. Had she been able to check petitioner Erlinda’s airway prior to the operation, Dr. Gutierrez would most probably not have experienced difficulty in intubating the former, and thus the resultant injury could have been avoided. As we have stated in our Decision:

In the case at bar, respondent Dra. Gutierrez admitted that she saw Erlinda for the first time on the day of the operation itself, on 17 June 1985. Before this date, no prior consultations with, or pre-operative evaluation of Erlinda was done by her. Until the day of the operation, respondent Dra. Gutierrez was unaware of the physiological make-up and needs of Erlinda. She was likewise not properly informed of the possible difficulties she would face during the administration of anesthesia to Erlinda. Respondent Dra. Gutierrez’ act of seeing her patient for the first time only an hour before the scheduled operative procedure was, therefore, an act of exceptional negligence and professional irresponsibility. The measures cautioning prudence and vigilance in dealing with human lives lie at the core of the physician’s centuries-old Hippocratic Oath. Her failure to follow this medical procedure is, therefore, a clear indicia of her negligence.

Further, there is no cogent reason for the Court to reverse its finding that it was the faulty intubation on Erlinda that caused her comatose condition. There is no question that Erlinda became comatose after Dr. Gutierrez performed a medical procedure on her. Even the counsel of Dr. Gutierrez admitted to this fact during the oral arguments:

CHIEF JUSTICE:
Mr. Counsel, you started your argument saying that this involves a comatose patient?
ATTY. GANA:
Yes, Your Honor.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
How do you mean by that, a comatose, a comatose after any other acts were done by Dr. Gutierrez or comatose before any act was done by her?
ATTY. GANA:
No, we meant comatose as a final outcome of the procedure.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
Meaning to say, the patient became comatose after some intervention, professional acts have been done by Dr. Gutierrez?
ATTY. GANA:
Yes, Your Honor.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
In other words, the comatose status was a consequence of some acts performed by D. Gutierrez?
ATTY. GANA:
It was a consequence of the well, (interrupted)
CHIEF JUSTICE:
An acts performed by her, is that not correct?
ATTY. GANA:
Yes, Your Honor.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
Thank you.

What is left to be determined therefore is whether Erlinda’s hapless condition was due to any fault or negligence on the part of Dr. Gutierrez while she (Erlinda) was under the latter’s care. Dr. Gutierrez maintains that the bronchospasm and cardiac arrest resulting in the patient’s comatose condition was brought about by the anaphylactic reaction of the patient to Thiopental Sodium (pentothal). In the Decision, we explained why we found Dr. Gutierrez’ theory unacceptable. In the first place, Dr. Eduardo Jamora, the witness who was presented to support her (Dr. Gutierrez) theory, was a pulmonologist. Thus, he could not be considered an authority on anesthesia practice and procedure and their complications.
Secondly, there was no evidence on record to support the theory that Erlinda developed an allergic reaction to pentothal. Dr. Camagay enlightened the Court as to the manifestations of an allergic reaction in this wise:

DR. CAMAGAY:
All right, let us qualify an allergic reaction. In medical terminology an allergic reaction is something which is not usual response and it is further qualified by the release of a hormone called histamine and histamine has an effect on all the organs of the body generally release because the substance that entered the body reacts with the particular cell, the mass cell, and the mass cell secretes this histamine. In a way it is some form of response to take away that which is not mine, which is not part of the body. So, histamine has multiple effects on the body. So, one of the effects as you will see you will have redness, if you have an allergy you will have tearing of the eyes, you will have swelling, very crucial swelling sometimes of the larynges which is your voice box main airway, that swelling may be enough to obstruct the entry of air to the trachea and you could also have contraction, constriction of the smaller airways beyond the trachea, you see you have the trachea this way, we brought some visual aids but unfortunately we do not have a projector. And then you have the smaller airways, the bronchi and then eventually into the mass of the lungs you have the bronchus. The difference is that these tubes have also in their walls muscles and this particular kind of muscles is smooth muscle so, when histamine is released they close up like this and that phenomenon is known as bronco spasm. However, the effects of histamine also on blood vessels are different. They dilate blood vessel open up and the patient or whoever has this histamine release has hypertension or low blood pressure to a point that the patient may have decrease blood supply to the brain and may collapse so, you may have people who have this.

These symptoms of an allergic reaction were not shown to have been extant in Erlinda’s case. As we held in our Decision, “no evidence of stridor, skin reactions, or wheezing – some of the more common accompanying signs of an allergic reaction – appears on record. No laboratory data were ever presented to the court.”
Dr. Gutierrez, however, insists that she successfully intubated Erlinda as evidenced by the fact that she was revived after suffering from cardiac arrest. Dr. Gutierrez faults the Court for giving credence to the testimony of Cruz on the matter of the administration of anesthesia when she (Cruz), being a nurse, was allegedly not qualified to testify thereon. Rather, Dr. Gutierrez invites the Court’s attention to her synopsis on what transpired during Erlinda’s intubation:

12:15 p.m. Patient was inducted with sodium pentothal 2.5% (250 mg) given by slow IV. 02 was started by mask. After pentothal injection this was followed by IV injection of Norcuron 4mg. After 2 minutes 02 was given by positive pressure for about one minute. Intubation with endotracheal tube 7.5 m in diameter was done with slight difficulty (short neck & slightly prominent upper teeth) chest was examined for breath sounds & checked if equal on both sides. The tube was then anchored to the mouth by plaster & cuff inflated. Ethrane 2% with 02 4 liters was given. Blood pressure was checked 120/80 & heart rate regular and normal 90/min.
12:25 p.m. After 10 minutes patient was cyanotic. Ethrane was discontinued & 02 given alone. Cyanosis disappeared. Blood pressure and heart beats stable.
12:30 p.m. Cyanosis again reappeared this time with sibilant and sonorous rales all over the chest. D_5%_H20 & 1 ampule of aminophyline by fast drip was started. Still the cyanosis was persistent. Patient was connected to a cardiac monitor. Another ampule of of [sic] aminophyline was given and solu cortef was given.
12:40 p.m. There was cardiac arrest. Extra cardiac massage and intercardiac injection of adrenalin was given & heart beat reappeared in less than one minute. Sodium bicarbonate & another dose of solu cortef was given by IV. Cyanosis slowly disappeared & 02 continuously given & assisted positive pressure. Laboratory exams done (see results in chart).

Patient was transferred to ICU for further management.

From the foregoing, it can be allegedly seen that there was no withdrawal (extubation) of the tube. And the fact that the cyanosis allegedly disappeared after pure oxygen was supplied through the tube proved that it was properly placed.
The Court has reservations on giving evidentiary weight to the entries purportedly contained in Dr. Gutierrez’ synopsis. It is significant to note that the said record prepared by Dr. Gutierrez was made only after Erlinda was taken out of the operating room. The standard practice in anesthesia is that every single act that the anesthesiologist performs must be recorded. In Dr. Gutierrez’ case, she could not account for at least ten (10) minutes of what happened during the administration of anesthesia on Erlinda. The following exchange between Dr. Estrella, one of the amicii curiae, and Dr. Gutierrez is instructive:

DR. ESTRELLA
You mentioned that there were two (2) attempts in the intubation period?
DR. GUTIERREZ
Yes.
Q There were two attempts. In the first attempt was the tube inserted or was the laryngoscope only inserted, which was inserted?
A All the laryngoscope.
Q All the laryngoscope. But if I remember right somewhere in the re-direct, a certain lawyer, you were asked that you did a first attempt and the question was – did you withdraw the tube? And you said – you never withdrew the tube, is that right?
A Yes.
Q Yes. And so if you never withdrew the tube then there was no, there was no insertion of the tube during that first attempt. Now, the other thing that we have to settle here is – when cyanosis occurred, is it recorded in the anesthesia record when the cyanosis, in your recording when did the cyanosis occur?
A (sic)
Q Is it a standard practice of anesthesia that whatever you do during that period or from the time of induction to the time that you probably get the patient out of the operating room that every single action that you do is so recorded in your anesthesia record?
A I was not able to record everything I did not have time anymore because I did that after the, when the patient was about to leave the operating room. When there was second cyanosis already that was the (interrupted)
Q When was the first cyanosis?
A The first cyanosis when I was (interrupted)
Q What time, more or less?
A I think it was 12:15 or 12:16.
Q Well, if the record will show you started induction at 12:15?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q And the first medication you gave was what?
A The first medication, no, first the patient was oxygenated for around one to two minutes.
Q Yes, so, that is about 12:13?
A Yes, and then, I asked the resident physician to start giving the pentothal very slowly and that was around one minute.
Q So, that is about 12:13 no, 12:15, 12:17?
A Yes, and then, after one minute another oxygenation was given and after (interrupted)
Q 12:18?
A Yes, and then after giving the oxygen we start the menorcure which is a relaxant. After that relaxant (interrupted)
Q After that relaxant, how long do you wait before you do any manipulation?
A Usually you wait for two minutes or three minutes.
Q So, if our estimate of the time is accurate we are now more or less 12:19, is that right?
A Maybe.
Q 12:19. And at that time, what would have been done to this patient?
A After that time you examine the, if there is relaxation of the jaw which you push it downwards and when I saw that the patient was relax because that monorcure is a relaxant, you cannot intubate the patient or insert the laryngoscope if it is not keeping him relax. So, my first attempt when I put the laryngoscope on I saw the trachea was deeply interiorly. So, what I did ask “mahirap ata ito ah.” So, I removed the laryngoscope and oxygenated again the patient.

Q So, more or less you attempted to do an intubation after the first attempt as you claimed that it was only the laryngoscope that was inserted.
A Yes.
Q And in the second attempt you inserted the laryngoscope and now possible intubation?
A Yes.
Q And at that point, you made a remark, what remark did you make?
A I said “mahirap ata ito” when the first attempt I did not see the trachea right away. That was when I (interrupted)
Q That was the first attempt?
A Yes.
Q What about the second attempt?
A On the second attempt I was able to intubate right away within two to three seconds.
Q At what point, for purposes of discussion without accepting it, at what point did you make the comment “na mahirap ata to intubate, mali ata ang pinasukan”
A I did not say “mali ata ang pinasukan” I never said that.
Q Well, just for the information of the group here the remarks I am making is based on the documents that were forwarded to me by the Supreme Court. That is why for purposes of discussion I am trying to clarify this for the sake of enlightenment. So, at what point did you ever make that comment?
A Which one, sir?
Q The “mahirap intubate ito” assuming that you (interrupted)
A Iyon lang, that is what I only said “mahirap intubate (interrupted)
Q At what point?
A When the first attempt when I inserted the laryngoscope for the first time.
Q So, when you claim that at the first attempt you inserted the laryngoscope, right?
A Yes.
Q But in one of the recordings somewhere at the, somewhere in the transcript of records that when the lawyer of the other party try to inquire from you during the first attempt that was the time when “mayroon ba kayong hinugot sa tube, I do not remember the page now, but it seems to me it is there. So, that it was on the second attempt that (interrupted)
A I was able to intubate.
Q And this is more or less about what time 12:21?
A Maybe, I cannot remember the time, Sir.
Q Okay, assuming that this was done at 12:21 and looking at the anesthesia records from 12:20 to 12:30 there was no recording of the vital signs. And can we presume that at this stage there was already some problems in handling the patient?
A Not yet.
Q But why are there no recordings in the anesthesia record?
A I did not have time.
Q Ah, you did not have time, why did you not have time?
A Because it was so fast, I really (at this juncture the witness is laughing)
Q No, I am just asking. Remember I am not here not to pin point on anybody I am here just to more or less clarify certainty more ore less on the record.
A Yes, Sir.
Q And so it seems that there were no recording during that span of ten (10) minutes. From 12:20 to 12:30, and going over your narration, it seems to me that the cyanosis appeared ten (10) minutes after induction, is that right?
A Yes.
Q And that is after induction 12:15 that is 12:25 that was the first cyanosis?
A Yes.
Q And that the 12:25 is after the 12:20?
A We cannot (interrupted)
Q Huwag ho kayong makuwan, we are just trying to enlighten, I am just going over the record ano, kung mali ito kuwan eh di ano. So, ganoon po ano, that it seems to me that there is no recording from 12:20 to 12:30, so, I am just wondering why there were no recordings during the period and then of course the second cyanosis, after the first cyanosis. I think that was the time Dr. Hosaka came in?
A No, the first cyanosis (interrupted).
We cannot thus give full credence to Dr. Gutierrez’ synopsis in light of her admission that it does not fully reflect the events that transpired during the administration of anesthesia on Erlinda. As pointed out by Dr. Estrella, there was a ten-minute gap in Dr. Gutierrez’ synopsis, i.e., the vital signs of Erlinda were not recorded during that time. The absence of these data is particularly significant because, as found by the trial court, it was the absence of oxygen supply for four (4) to five (5) minutes that caused Erlinda’s comatose condition.

On the other hand, the Court has no reason to disbelieve the testimony of Cruz. As we stated in the Decision, she is competent to testify on matters which she is capable of observing such as, the statements and acts of the physician and surgeon, external appearances and manifest conditions which are observable by any one. Cruz, Erlinda’s sister-in-law, was with her inside the operating room. Moreover, being a nurse and Dean of the Capitol Medical Center School of Nursing at that, she is not entirely ignorant of anesthetic procedure. Cruz narrated that she heard Dr. Gutierrez remark, “Ang hirap ma-intubate nito, mali yata ang pagkakapasok. O lumalaki ang tiyan.” She observed that the nailbeds of Erlinda became bluish and thereafter Erlinda was placed in trendelenburg position. Cruz further averred that she noticed that the abdomen of Erlinda became distended.

The cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin or mucous membranes caused by lack of oxygen or abnormal hemoglobin in the blood) and enlargement of the stomach of Erlinda indicate that the endotracheal tube was improperly inserted into the esophagus instead of the trachea. Consequently, oxygen was delivered not to the lungs but to the gastrointestinal tract. This conclusion is supported by the fact that Erlinda was placed in trendelenburg position. This indicates that there was a decrease of blood supply to the patient’s brain. The brain was thus temporarily deprived of oxygen supply causing Erlinda to go into coma.

The injury incurred by petitioner Erlinda does not normally happen absent any negligence in the administration of anesthesia and in the use of an endotracheal tube. As was noted in our Decision, the instruments used in the administration of anesthesia, including the endotracheal tube, were all under the exclusive control of private respondents Dr. Gutierrez and Dr. Hosaka. In Voss vs. Bridwell, which involved a patient who suffered brain damage due to the wrongful administration of anesthesia, and even before the scheduled mastoid operation could be performed, the Kansas Supreme Court applied the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, reasoning that the injury to the patient therein was one which does not ordinarily take place in the absence of negligence in the administration of an anesthetic, and in the use and employment of an endotracheal tube. The court went on to say that “[o]rdinarily a person being put under anesthesia is not rendered decerebrate as a consequence of administering such anesthesia in the absence of negligence. Upon these facts and under these circumstances, a layman would be able to say, as a matter of common knowledge and observation, that the consequences of professional treatment were not as such as would ordinarily have followed if due care had been exercised.” Considering the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, the testimony of Cruz was properly given credence in the case at bar.

For his part, Dr. Hosaka mainly contends that the Court erred in finding him negligent as a surgeon by applying the Captain-of-the-Ship doctrine. Dr. Hosaka argues that the trend in United States jurisprudence has been to reject said doctrine in light of the developments in medical practice. He points out that anesthesiology and surgery are two distinct and specialized fields in medicine and as a surgeon, he is not deemed to have control over the acts of Dr. Gutierrez. As anesthesiologist, Dr. Gutierrez is a specialist in her field and has acquired skills and knowledge in the course of her training which Dr. Hosaka, as a surgeon, does not possess. He states further that current American jurisprudence on the matter recognizes that the trend towards specialization in medicine has created situations where surgeons do not always have the right to control all personnel within the operating room, especially a fellow specialist.

Dr. Hosaka cites the case of Thomas v. Raleigh General Hospital, which involved a suit filed by a patient who lost his voice due to the wrongful insertion of the endotracheal tube preparatory to the administration of anesthesia in connection with the laparotomy to be conducted on him. The patient sued both the anesthesiologist and the surgeon for the injury suffered by him. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia held that the surgeon could not be held liable for the loss of the patient’s voice, considering that the surgeon did not have a hand in the intubation of the patient. The court rejected the application of the “Captain-of-the-Ship Doctrine,” citing the fact that the field of medicine has become specialized such that surgeons can no longer be deemed as having control over the other personnel in the operating room. It held that “[a]n assignment of liability based on actual control more realistically reflects the actual relationship which exists in a modern operating room.” Hence, only the anesthesiologist who inserted the endotracheal tube into the patient’s throat was held liable for the injury suffered by the latter.
This contention fails to persuade.

That there is a trend in American jurisprudence to do away with the Captain-of-the-Ship doctrine does not mean that this Court will ipso facto follow said trend. Due regard for the peculiar factual circumstances obtaining in this case justify the application of the Captain-of-the-Ship doctrine. From the facts on record it can be logically inferred that Dr. Hosaka exercised a certain degree of, at the very least, supervision over the procedure then being performed on Erlinda.
First, it was Dr. Hosaka who recommended to petitioners the services of Dr. Gutierrez. In effect, he represented to petitioners that Dr. Gutierrez possessed the necessary competence and skills. Drs. Hosaka and Gutierrez had worked together since 1977. Whenever Dr. Hosaka performed a surgery, he would always engage the services of Dr. Gutierrez to administer the anesthesia on his patient.

Second, Dr. Hosaka himself admitted that he was the attending physician of Erlinda. Thus, when Erlinda showed signs of cyanosis, it was Dr. Hosaka who gave instructions to call for another anesthesiologist and cardiologist to help resuscitate Erlinda.
Third, it is conceded that in performing their responsibilities to the patient, Drs. Hosaka and Gutierrez worked as a team. Their work cannot be placed in separate watertight compartments because their duties intersect with each other.

While the professional services of Dr. Hosaka and Dr. Gutierrez were secured primarily for their performance of acts within their respective fields of expertise for the treatment of petitioner Erlinda, and that one does not exercise control over the other, they were certainly not completely independent of each other so as to absolve one from the negligent acts of the other physician.

That they were working as a medical team is evident from the fact that Dr. Hosaka was keeping an eye on the intubation of the patient by Dr. Gutierrez, and while doing so, he observed that the patient’s nails had become dusky and had to call Dr. Gutierrez’s attention thereto. The Court also notes that the counsel for Dr. Hosaka admitted that in practice, the anesthesiologist would also have to observe the surgeon’s acts during the surgical process and calls the attention of the surgeon whenever necessary in the course of the treatment. The duties of Dr. Hosaka and those of Dr. Gutierrez in the treatment of petitioner Erlinda are therefore not as clear-cut as respondents claim them to be. On the contrary, it is quite apparent that they have a common responsibility to treat the patient, which responsibility necessitates that they call each other’s attention to the condition of the patient while the other physician is performing the necessary medical procedures.

It is equally important to point out that Dr. Hosaka was remiss in his duty of attending to petitioner Erlinda promptly, for he arrived more than three (3) hours late for the scheduled operation. The cholecystectomy was set for June 17, 1985 at 9:00 a.m., but he arrived at DLSMC only at around 12:10 p.m. In reckless disregard for his patient’s well being, Dr. Hosaka scheduled two procedures on the same day, just thirty minutes apart from each other, at different hospitals. Thus, when the first procedure (protoscopy) at the Sta. Teresita Hospital did not proceed on time, Erlinda was kept in a state of uncertainty at the DLSMC.

The unreasonable delay in petitioner Erlinda’s scheduled operation subjected her to continued starvation and consequently, to the risk of acidosis, or the condition of decreased alkalinity of the blood and tissues, marked by sickly sweet breath, headache, nausea and vomiting, and visual disturbances. The long period that Dr. Hosaka made Erlinda wait for him certainly aggravated the anxiety that she must have been feeling at the time. It could be safely said that her anxiety adversely affected the administration of anesthesia on her. As explained by Dr. Camagay, the patient’s anxiety usually causes the outpouring of adrenaline which in turn results in high blood pressure or disturbances in the heart rhythm:

DR. CAMAGAY:
x x x Pre-operative medication has three main functions: One is to alleviate anxiety. Second is to dry up the secretions and Third is to relieve pain. Now, it is very important to alleviate anxiety because anxiety is associated with the outpouring of certain substances formed in the body called adrenalin. When a patient is anxious there is an outpouring of adrenalin which would have adverse effect on the patient. One of it is high blood pressure, the other is that he opens himself to disturbances in the heart rhythm, which would have adverse implications. So, we would like to alleviate patient’s anxiety mainly because he will not be in control of his body there could be adverse results to surgery and he will be opened up; a knife is going to open up his body. x x x
Dr. Hosaka cannot now claim that he was entirely blameless of what happened to Erlinda. His conduct clearly constituted a breach of his professional duties to Erlinda:
CHIEF JUSTICE:
Two other points. The first, Doctor, you were talking about anxiety, would you consider a patient's stay on the operating table for three hours sufficient enough to aggravate or magnify his or her anxiety?
DR. CAMAGAY:
Yes.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
In other words, I understand that in this particular case that was the case, three hours waiting and the patient was already on the operating table (interrupted)
DR. CAMAGAY:
Yes.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
Would you therefore conclude that the surgeon contributed to the aggravation of the anxiety of the patient?
DR. CAMAGAY:
That this operation did not take place as scheduled is already a source of anxiety and most operating tables are very narrow and that patients are usually at risk of falling on the floor so there are restraints that are placed on them and they are never, never left alone in the operating room by themselves specially if they are already pre-medicated because they may not be aware of some of their movement that they make which would contribute to their injury.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
In other words due diligence would require a surgeon to come on time?
DR. CAMAGAY:
I think it is not even due diligence it is courtesy.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
Courtesy.
DR. CAMAGAY:
And care.
CHIEF JUSTICE:
Duty as a matter of fact?
DR. CAMAGAY:
Yes, Your Honor.
Dr. Hosaka's irresponsible conduct of arriving very late for the scheduled operation of petitioner Erlinda is violative, not only of his duty as a physician “to serve the interest of his patients with the greatest solicitude, giving them always his best talent and skill,” but also of Article 19 of the Civil Code which requires a person, in the performance of his duties, to act with justice and give everyone his due.

Anent private respondent DLSMC’s liability for the resulting injury to petitioner Erlinda, we held that respondent hospital is solidarily liable with respondent doctors therefor under Article 2180 of the Civil Code since there exists an employer-employee relationship between private respondent DLSMC and Drs. Gutierrez and Hosaka:

In other words, private hospitals, hire, fire and exercise real control over their attending and visiting “consultant” staff. While “consultants” are not, technically employees, x x x the control exercised, the hiring and the right to terminate consultants all fulfill the important hallmarks of an employer-employee relationship, with the exception of the payment of wages. In assessing whether such a relationship in fact exists, the control test is determining. x x x
DLSMC however contends that applying the four-fold test in determining whether such a relationship exists between it and the respondent doctors, the inescapable conclusion is that DLSMC cannot be considered an employer of the respondent doctors.

It has been consistently held that in determining whether an employer-employee relationship exists between the parties, the following elements must be present: (1) selection and engagement of services; (2) payment of wages; (3) the power to hire and fire; and (4) the power to control not only the end to be achieved, but the means to be used in reaching such an end.

DLSMC maintains that first, a hospital does not hire or engage the services of a consultant, but rather, accredits the latter and grants him or her the privilege of maintaining a clinic and/or admitting patients in the hospital upon a showing by the consultant that he or she possesses the necessary qualifications, such as accreditation by the appropriate board (diplomate), evidence of fellowship and references. Second, it is not the hospital but the patient who pays the consultant’s fee for services rendered by the latter. Third, a hospital does not dismiss a consultant; instead, the latter may lose his or her accreditation or privileges granted by the hospital. Lastly, DLSMC argues that when a doctor refers a patient for admission in a hospital, it is the doctor who prescribes the treatment to be given to said patient. The hospital’s obligation is limited to providing the patient with the preferred room accommodation, the nutritional diet and medications prescribed by the doctor, the equipment and facilities necessary for the treatment of the patient, as well as the services of the hospital staff who perform the ministerial tasks of ensuring that the doctor’s orders are carried out strictly.
After a careful consideration of the arguments raised by DLSMC, the Court finds that respondent hospital’s position on this issue is meritorious. There is no employer-employee relationship between DLSMC and Drs. Gutierrez and Hosaka which would hold DLSMC solidarily liable for the injury suffered by petitioner Erlinda under Article 2180 of the Civil Code.

As explained by respondent hospital, that the admission of a physician to membership in DLSMC’s medical staff as active or visiting consultant is first decided upon by the Credentials Committee thereof, which is composed of the heads of the various specialty departments such as the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Surgery with the department head of the particular specialty applied for as chairman. The Credentials Committee then recommends to DLSMC's Medical Director or Hospital Administrator the acceptance or rejection of the applicant physician, and said director or administrator validates the committee's recommendation. Similarly, in cases where a disciplinary action is lodged against a consultant, the same is initiated by the department to whom the consultant concerned belongs and filed with the Ethics Committee consisting of the department specialty heads. The medical director/hospital administrator merely acts as ex-officio member of said committee.

Neither is there any showing that it is DLSMC which pays any of its consultants for medical services rendered by the latter to their respective patients. Moreover, the contract between the consultant in respondent hospital and his patient is separate and distinct from the contract between respondent hospital and said patient. The first has for its object the rendition of medical services by the consultant to the patient, while the second concerns the provision by the hospital of facilities and services by its staff such as nurses and laboratory personnel necessary for the proper treatment of the patient.

Further, no evidence was adduced to show that the injury suffered by petitioner Erlinda was due to a failure on the part of respondent DLSMC to provide for hospital
facilities and staff necessary for her treatment.

For these reasons, we reverse the finding of liability on the part of DLSMC for the injury suffered by petitioner Erlinda.

Finally, the Court also deems it necessary to modify the award of damages to petitioners in view of the supervening event of petitioner Erlinda’s death. In the assailed Decision, the Court awarded actual damages of One Million Three Hundred Fifty Two Thousand Pesos (P1,352,000.00) to cover the expenses for petitioner Erlinda’s treatment and care from the date of promulgation of the Decision up to the time the patient expires or survives. In addition thereto, the Court awarded temperate damages of One Million Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P1,500,000.00) in view of the chronic and continuing nature of petitioner Erlinda’s injury and the certainty of further pecuniary loss by petitioners as a result of said injury, the amount of which, however, could not be made with certainty at the time of the promulgation of the decision. The Court justified such award in this manner:

Our rules on actual or compensatory damages generally assume that at the time of litigation, the injury suffered as a consequence of an act of negligence has been completed and that the cost can be liquidated. However, these provisions neglect to take into account those situations, as in this case, where the resulting injury might be continuing and possible future complications directly arising from the injury, while certain to occur, are difficult to predict.

In these cases, the amount of damages which should be awarded, if they are to adequately and correctly respond to the injury caused, should be one which compensates for pecuniary loss incurred and proved, up to the time of trial; and one which would meet pecuniary loss certain to be suffered but which could not, from the nature of the case, be made with certainty. In other words, temperate damages can and should be awarded on top of actual or compensatory damages in instances where the injury is chronic and continuing. And because of the unique nature of such cases, no incompatibility arises when both actual and temperate damages are provided for. The reason is that these damages cover two distinct phases.

As it would not be equitable—and certainly not in the best interests of the administration of justice—for the victim in such cases to constantly come before the courts and invoke their aid in seeking adjustments to the compensatory damages previously awarded—temperate damages are appropriate. The amount given as temperate damages, though to a certain extent speculative, should take into account the cost of proper care.

In the instant case, petitioners were able to provide only home-based nursing care for a comatose patient who has remained in that condition for over a decade. Having premised our award for compensatory damages on the amount provided by petitioners at the onset of litigation, it would be now much more in step with the interests of justice if the value awarded for temperate damages would allow petitioners to provide optimal care for their loved one in a facility which generally specializes in such care. They should not be compelled by dire circumstances to provide substandard care at home without the aid of professionals, for anything less would be grossly inadequate. Under the circumstances, an award of P1,500,000.00 in temperate damages would therefore be reasonable.

However, subsequent to the promulgation of the Decision, the Court was informed by petitioner Rogelio that petitioner Erlinda died on August 3, 1999. In view of this supervening event, the award of temperate damages in addition to the actual or compensatory damages would no longer be justified since the actual damages awarded in the Decision are sufficient to cover the medical expenses incurred by petitioners for the patient. Hence, only the amounts representing actual, moral and exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and costs of suit should be awarded to petitioners.

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision is hereby modified as follows:
(1) Private respondent De Los Santos Medical Center is hereby absolved from liability arising from the injury suffered by petitioner Erlinda Ramos on June 17, 1985;
(2) Private respondents Dr. Orlino Hosaka and Dr. Perfecta Gutierrez are hereby declared to be solidarily liable for the injury suffered by petitioner Erlinda on June 17, 1985 and are ordered to pay petitioners—
(a) P1,352,000.00 as actual damages;
(b) P2,000,000.00 as moral damages;
(c) P100,000.00 as exemplary damages;
(d) P100,000.00 as attorney’s fees; and
(e) the costs of the suit.

SO ORDERED.

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