Ward Class

An Online Resource Site For Student Nurses

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Ward Class is an online resource for student nurses. Created with the aim of helping student nurses cope with the demands of nursing school and clinicals, it offers free downloads, notes, sample NCPs, sample drug studies, study aids, news and updates, and practical tips to its users.

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Res Ipsa Loquitur

Res ipsa loquitur is a legal term which means "the thing itself speaks" but is often translated "the thing speaks for itself". It is used in actions for injury by negligence and signifies that no further details are necessary as the happening itself is accepted as proof.

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is applied to tort (a civil wrong or injury) claims and is useful to the plaintiff (one who brings an action in a court of law) in certain negligence cases. However, to invoke the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in the context of negligence, the plaintiff must prove that:
  1. The injury would not ordinarily have occurred without someone's negligence.
  2. The instrumentality which caused the injury was under the exclusive control of the defendant during the time of the likely negligent act.
  3. The plaintiff's voluntary or involuntary actions did not contribute to the injury.

In her book Professional Nursing in the Philippines, Lydia M. Venzon cites the following examples of obvious negligence wherein a defendant's negligence is established under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur:
  1. A patient came in walking to the out-patient clinic for injection. After injection was administered to his buttocks, the patient experienced extreme pain, leg weakness, and was subsequently paralyzed.
  2. The presence of sponges in the patient's abdomen after an operation.
  3. Fracture on a newly-delivered baby born by breech presentation.

Furthermore, it is important to note that res ipsa loquitur is not synonymous with prima facie, another legal exression. Prima facie is a term which means "the matter seems obvious and self-explanatory". Res ipsa loquitur, on the other hand, is the legal argument which means "that because it is so obvious, the plaintiff need not explain further to prove the defendant's liability". For example:

There is a prima facie case that the defendant is liable. The patient consented to an appendectomy and the surgeon removed the patient's appendix. After a week, the patient sought medical consultation due to severe stomach pains. Serial radiologic studies reveal that sponges were left inside the patient's abdomen. Res ispsa loquitur.

Indeed, it requires no further explanation to establish that a surgeon who performs appendectomy and leaves sponges inside a patient's abdomen after the operation is negligent as there is no legitimate reason for him to do so.

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