Doctors not negligent despite delay in performing medical procedure on patient

Source: , Posted On:   26 January 2023

At about 3 a.m. on December 20, Focken suffered another significant bleed in his neck with catastrophic impact. He was placed on life support, but he sustained significant brain damage resulting in his death a couple of weeks later.

Focken’s widow, Teisha Focken, complained that the attending physicians and nurses at RCH breached the standard of care they owed to the patient, and their negligence caused his death. She claimed that her husband actively and continuously bled during his stay at the hospital, so the embolization procedure should have been performed immediately, on an emergent basis, instead of being scheduled later. Teisha Focken sued Dr. Miller, Dr. Best, and Dr. Diana Stancu, the hospitalist on duty at RCH at the time of the incident. The complainant also impleaded the Fraser Health Authority as the entity that employs the nurses who attended to Focken.

Standard of Care

In medical negligence cases, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care, that the duty of care was breached, and the breach resulted in harm. Teisha Focken’s complaint against the RCH doctors and nurses reached the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which ruled that the medical personnel who had seen Focken did not breach the standard of care owed to the patient.

The court said that the standard of care required is that of an ordinary competent physician under the same circumstances. The court further cautioned that in medical negligence cases, the fact that something had gone wrong is not evidence of negligence. The court explained that a physician must be judged based on the standard of an ordinary, average specialist in the same field and must not be held to a standard of perfection.

The court also noted that nurses must exercise the care and skill that is reasonably expected of a prudent and careful nurse in similar circumstances. The court said that the standard required is not perfection or even excellence.