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COA refuses to rule defendants get blanket immunity

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that an arrestee brought to the hospital by police who was forced to have a catheter to obtain a urine sample can’t sue the health-care providers under the Medical Malpractice Act. The appellate judges also ruled the health-care providers weren’t entitled to blanket immunity, based on Indiana Code Section 9-30-6-6.

Larz Elliott was taken to Rush Memorial Hospital by a deputy sheriff for a blood sample and urine sample. The deputy said he had a court order, but produced no written authorization. Elliot was handcuffed to a bed and had his pants forcibly removed when he couldn’t produce the urine sample and was catheterized.

He filed a proposed medical malpractice complaint against the hospital and medical staff that performed the catheterization alleging battery and negligence. The trial court found Elliot hadn’t stated any claims that required evaluation and that the defendants were immune from liability under I.C. Section 9-30-6-6.

In Larz A. Elliott v. Rush Memorial Hospital, Carrie Tressler, R.N., Philip Kingma, M.D., No. 70A01-0911-CV-533, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling because Elliot’s claims fall outside the act. Caselaw has held the act requires a person’s medical treatment was sought out or was necessary for the person’s own benefit. Elliot’s catheterization wasn’t for his own medical benefit, nor was it related to any treatment he needed for disease or injury. It was carried out solely for law enforcement purposes, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. He wasn’t a “patient” of the defendants for purposes of the act.

The Court of Appeals also declined to endorse a broad sweep of immunity for health-care providers under I.C. Section 9-30-6-6, as the trial court ruled. The statue requires that officers have certified in writing probable cause to get the sample and that not more than reasonable force be used to obtain the sample. The statute also says that the sample shall be taken in a medically accepted manner.

Indiana courts haven’t discussed whether these two subsections place limitations on when health-care workers can claim immunity for getting a bodily sample at an officer’s request. Addressing a similar issue involving Indiana’s Shoplifting Detention Act, the appellate court decided that I.C. Section 9-30-6-6’s grant of immunity doesn’t apply to samples that aren’t obtained in accordance with all of the statute’s provisions.

The catheterization also presents legitimate questions of fact as to whether forced catheterization is a “medically acceptable manner” to get a sample or if it’s unreasonable force in this situation. There are medical risks associated with using a catheter.

“The position that the trial court and the Defendants offer is that once a police officer requests a health care provider to obtain a bodily substance sample from someone, the health care provider has no choice but to comply, regardless of the circumstances,” wrote Judge Barnes. “Particularly at this point in the litigation, we will not endorse such a broad sweep of immunity.”


 

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