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Legal Nurse Consultant Discusses Bed Sores

Michael Talve, CEO

Written by
— Updated on September 28, 2017

This case involves a man who was a paraplegic from spinal injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident. The man went into a physical rehabilitation center and later developed pressures sores (i.e. decubitus-ulcers, bed sores) on his buttocks and sacrum while he was there. The sores progressed to the point that he had to be admitted to the hospital for surgery and surgical debridement because he developed an infection in the pressure wound on his sacrum. The man was later released from the hospital and was sent back to the rehabilitation center. The man sued the rehabilitation center for medical malpractice claiming that they were negligent in meeting the standard of nursing care for pressure relief for a paralyzed patient and this caused the pressure sores. The man sought to use a legal nurse consultant to testify about the issue of causation in his malpractice case.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Can a legal nurse consultant testify in a medical malpractice case about what caused pressures sores on a paralyzed patient?

Expert Witness Response

In general, in medical malpractice cases involving claims of negligence, a plaintiff must prove that the failure of medical staff to meet the appropriate standard of care caused the patient’s injuries. A plaintiff must generally use a medical expert to testify about how a medical staff’s deviance from the appropriate standard of care caused injuries to them. In most cases, it has been held that only physicians are qualified to testify about causation in medical malpractice cases. Even in cases where a nurse’s conduct has fallen below the appropriate standard of care and this has injured a patient, it is usually only a doctor who is held qualified to testify as to whether the nurse’s conduct was negligent in a medical malpractice case. This general rule had been relaxed recently and several cases have allowed legal nurse consultants to testify as to whether a nurse’s conduct has fallen below the appropriate standard of care in a medical malpractice case. If a legal nurse consultant is qualified through their education and experience, they may be found qualified to testify as a medical expert in a medical malpractice case. Cases involving bed sores are considered special ones because nurses (rather than physicians) typically identify and care for this condition. Since bed sores are primarily an issue that nurses have unique expertise in, a legal nurse consultant is usually held to qualify as a medical expert who can testify about the issue of what caused bed sores in a medical malpractice case. In this case, the legal nurse consultant can probably testify about whether the staff at the rehabilitation center failed to meet the proper standard of care because the case involves pressures sores and the legal nurse consultant would have the education and training to testify about the medical cause of the sores.

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