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Legal Aspects of Infection Control

  • Ellen Covner Weiss

Abstract

In this discussion1 of Legal Aspects of infection control, Infection Control refers to a hospital program that is designed to prevent, identify and control infections acquired in the hospital or brought into the hospital from the community. This program is pervasive and comprehensive. It affects patients, employees, professional staff, treatment programs, and hospital operations, for example the disposal of hazardous waste or sterilization of equipment and devices. Indeed, the comprehensive nature of a hospital infection control program may be likened to public health programs undertaken in the community. The hospital is in effect a mini-community. Concerns about containing and treating venereal disease or AIDS and the management of infectious waste are all concerns reflected at a broader level in the community and in the state through authorizing legislation and a variety of programs.

Keywords

Infection Control Health Care Worker Communicable Disease Joint Commission Venereal Disease 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    This discussion represents the views of the author. It is not offered as legal advice.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 35 §521 et seq. Google Scholar
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    Id. at §521.4(a).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Id. at §521.4(b).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Id. at §521.4(d).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Id. at §521.2.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Id. at §521.11.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Id. at §521.11(a.2)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
  10. 10.
    Id. at §521.8.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Id. at §521.13.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
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  14. 14.
    Id. at §521.13(b).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Id. at §521.14(a).Google Scholar
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  17. 17.
    These sections are good examples of the incomplete attention that may be given to another medico-legal question when the emphasis is on a different topic. Thus, with the focus on prevention of venereal disease, consent for blood tests and consent of minors is briefly addressed. Here, the statute references testing in the absence of “dissent”; other state legislation defines consent more completely. Other provisions which affect minors use a different age at which they can act independent of their parents, or describe other health care needs e. g. pregnancy, where a minor’s consent is sufficient to authorize treatment. It would be an interesting, a possibly even useful exercise to collect and compare these provisions for purpose, consistency, and clarity.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, The Hospital Association of Pennsylvania, AIDS Guidelines for Hospitals, Feb., 1988, AIDS Task Group of the American Academy of Hospital Attorneys, AIDS and the Law; Responding to the Special Concerns of Hospitals, Spring, 1988.Google Scholar
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    This requirement should not be confused with the well-known “Good Samaritan” statute. This statute exists in every state in similar format. It may cover physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians, and others. It does not compel emergency treatment. Rather, it immunizes the “treater” from liability for providing gratuitous, emergency treatment in good faith without wilful or gross negligence. See, for example, Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 42 §8331.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
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  27. 27.
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    I11. Ann. Stat. Ch. 111 1/2 §5302.Google Scholar
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    This was adopted by the Joint Commission, at the April, 1987 meeting of its Board of Governors.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Query whether this was the real problem in the Warthen case.Google Scholar
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    29 USCA §651 et seq. Google Scholar
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    29 USCA §793.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Pennsylvania Medical Society Policy on AIDS, Oct. 25, 1987.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Note that, workers’ compensation depends on the individual’s employment status. Thus it would not be available to a physician with only a medical staff appointment to the hospital, since that does not create an employer-employee relationship. The physician’s remedy would be an action against the hospital, most likely based on negligence. As in most negligence actions, the physician’s conduct in contributing to or avoiding the harm may be an issue.Google Scholar
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    185 Ga. App. 771, 365 S.E.2d 549 (1988).Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Supra,note 22 at xi.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    28 Pa. Code §103.22.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Id. at §103.22(b).Google Scholar
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    Supra, note 22 at xii.Google Scholar
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    Supra, note 22.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Supra, note 45.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Supra, note 45 at §103.22(b)(11).Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    The hospital is required to provide for the physical isolation of patients. See, for example, 28 Pa. Code §146.2 and note 6, supra. Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Del.C. tit. 14 §131.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    M.G.L.A. Ch. 76 §15.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    I11. Rev. Stat. Ch. 111 1/2 p. 7506 §6.Google Scholar
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    291 Ala. 701 (1973).Google Scholar
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    No. 4541/88 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. July 27, 1988).Google Scholar
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    Supra, note 31.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    American Hospital Association, AIDS/HIV Infection Policy: Ensuring a Safe Hospital Environment, Report and Recommendations of the Special Committee on AIDS/HIV Infection Policy (Nov. 1987).Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Supra, note 24.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    There is no incentive to sue the infection control practitioner if all are part of the same insurance program.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    This may be due in part to lack of documentation in the patient’s chart that an infection control practitioner was involved in the patient’s treatment, or that treatment was (or should have been) subject to an infection control protocol.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Colo. Ct. App. 472 p.20 769 (1970).Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    248 F. Supp. 732 (USDC,D So. Carolina, Charleston Div. 1966).Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Supra, note 22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen Covner Weiss
    • 1
  1. 1.Hospital of the University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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