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Res Ipsa Loquitor

The Hippocratic Oath mandates physicians to give priority to the health and welfare of their patients. If a doctor fails, 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 ROGELIO E. RAMOS and ERLINDA RAMOS v. COURT OF APPEALS, DELOS SANTOS MEDICAL CENTER, DR. ORLINO HOSAKA and DRA. PERFECTA GUTIERREZ, G.R. No. 124354. December 29, 1999 the High Tribunal has reminded the Medical Practitioners the Hippocratic Oath.

Erlinda Ramos was, until the afternoon of June 17, 1985, a 47-year-old robust woman except for occasional complaints of discomfort due to pains allegedly caused by the presence of a stone in her gall bladder.

She sought professional advice and was advised to undergo an operation for the removal of a stone in her gall bladder. She underwent a series of examinations which indicated she was fit for surgery.

They were referred to Dr. Orlino Hosaka. They soon agreed to be operated on June on June 17, 1985 at 9:00 A.M. Dr. Hosaka decided that she should undergo a “cholecystectomy” operation after examining the documents 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. After agreeing on the professional fee of the doctors they proceeded with the operation schedule.

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. However, something happened during the operation that complicates the surgery of Erlinda Ramos.

Dr. Hosaka informed Rogelio Ramos that something went wrong during the intubation. 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. Erlinda Ramos stayed at the ICU for a month. On November 15, 1985, the patient was released from the hospital a coma.

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

The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiff and held responsible Dr. Hosaka, the anesthesiologist Dr. Gutierez and the Hospital. The respondents raised the matter to the High Court.

The Supreme Court applied the Latin maxim RES IPSA LOQUITOR which means “the thing or the transaction speaks for itself.” The phrase 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. This makes out a plaintiff’s prima facie case and for the defendant to explain. 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.

In ruling this case the court found that the respondent is wanting of care and management in the medical of ERLINDA RAMOS hence was held liable. Write us at carillogerry@yahoo.com.ph.