Phlebotomists are an integral part of a modern medical team. As such, their jobs encompass much more than the simple mechanics of blood withdrawal. An important part of a phlebotomist’s education involves learning about the ethical and legal questions associated with the field of phlebotomy. This article will provide you with a brief overview of some of the major legal issues faced by phlebotomists every day.
Every medical professional must make sure that his or her patients understand and consent to every procedure. In most instances, the patient has the right to an explanation of what medical procedure is being performed and why. If the patient is a minor, her parents or guardians must provide consent on her behalf. Phlebotomists must also bear in mind that the patient has the right to refuse consent. Even if a doctor has ordered a blood draw or injection, the patient has the right to refuse any venipuncture.
You may be surprised to see assault on a list of legal issues in phlebotomy. Unfortunately, they are lurking closer to the surface than you might think. If a phlebotomist threatens someone with a needle, they have committed assault. Simply put, assault is defined as making someone fear that you will use force to harm them. This can be a sensitive issue for phlebotomists because many people have a fear of needles and the pain associated with venipuncture. A well-trained phlebotomist will know how to deal with patients in a safe and legal manner.
Assault simply involves causing someone to fear that bodily harm will come to them. For the crime of battery to take place, actual physical contact must occur. In phlebotomy, this can be an issue if a phlebotomist forces an injection on a patient against their will. If a phlebotomist intentionally holds a patient down or uses more force than necessary, he has committed battery. This can not only end a career, it can lead to ruinous lawsuits and criminal charges.
Another issue that falls into the category of assault and battery is use of a dirty needle. Even if no excessive force is used, a dirty needle can cause life-altering harm to a patient. A phlebotomist is legally responsible for ensuring the sterility of all equipment in his or her care.
A patient has the right to know that their personal information will not be spread by the medical professionals who are in charge of their care. Blood withdrawals are often associated with testing for sensitive diseases, and phlebotomists will be privy to confidential information about many patients. They have a legal obligation to maintain their patients’ privacy. The law describing a patient’s right to medical privacy is commonly referred to as HIPAA. Under HIPAA, a patient has a right to confidentiality regarding any identifying information, including their diagnosis, treatment, and even birthday.
Even if a phlebotomist has not committed one of the crimes listed above, they can still be held liable for negligence. Negligence involves four elements: duty, breach, cause, and harm. This essentially means that for a patient to sue a medical practitioner, they must show that the practitioner failed in executing their duty to the patient, which was the direct cause of harm. This may sound simple, but it has been the subject of countless long courtroom battles. Following basic phlebotomy principles is one of the best ways for a phlebotomist to help prevent charges of negligence.
Malpractice is a term for the type of civil lawsuits that patients generally bring against medical practitioners who have failed to follow the standard of care. If a phlebotomist is facing a malpractice suit, they are not in danger of going to jail, but they may face other severe consequences. Depending on their jurisdiction and the severity of the harm caused, a jury may award the injured party a significant financial reward.
Medical practitioners take out malpractice insurance so that they can safely afford to pay for the damages awarded in malpractice suits. Phlebotomists can choose to purchase their own malpractice insurance or they may be covered by their supervising physician. However, ultimate cost of a malpractice lawsuit may be the loss of a profitable career rather than the payment of damages. Malpractice insurance premiums often rise after a lawsuit, leading many professionals unable to continue in their chosen career paths.
Interested in learning more?
You now know more about the basics of legal issues in phlebotomy. These issues are not incidental to a safe and successful phlebotomy career; rather, they are absolutely integral. In the modern world, it is impossible to be an ethical member of a medical team without awareness of the often complicated legal issues that surround the field.
The issues discussed here are only the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in pursuing your education and learning more about phlebotomy, contact PhlebotomyU today. We’ll give you guidance as you join this exciting and dynamic profession.