NC Supreme Court Rules Nurses Can Be Held Legally Liable for Medical Mistakes
Striking down a 90-year-old precedent in Byrd v. Marion General Hospital, the North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that nurses can be held liable for medical injuries. The case was filed by the family of Amaya Gullate, who, in 2010 at three years old, underwent a procedure at Carolinas Medical Center (now Atrium Health) for a heart condition and suffered permanent brain damage, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays after her heart stopped due to the anesthesia and went without oxygen and blood to her brain for several minutes. The ruling passed with a 3-2 majority. In the dissenting opinion, Justice Tamara Barringer said, "In judicially changing this standard, the three-justice majority appears to create liability without causation — allowing a nurse to be held liable for negligent collaboration in the treatment ultimately chosen by the physician. Such a policy choice should be made by the legislature, not merely three justices of this court." Critical care nurse and legal nurse consultant Ashley Hughes commented on the ruling, "None of the judges are in the healthcare arena. So that's very dangerous to me. To make decisions, especially about the standards of care without going through the due processes of going through the General Assembly." Hughes said the ruling could worsen the national nursing shortage, noting, "They're already short-staffed. On top of that, there is the issue of violence against nurses, nurses are being attacked. There's the issues about the pay nurses not being paid appropriately. Along with that, nurses now are being held more on a criminal level, rather than just civil."
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