Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)10 Oct 98


   Quick Summary: The hospital had no valid reason to refuse to show the patient the incident report that the needle apparently was not used on another patient before this patient was stuck accidentally.  It was tested and no hemoglobin was detected.  

   The patient can sue for emotional distress over her genuine fear she had been infected with HIV. NEW YORK SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, 1998.

   While being treated in the hospital’s emergency room a patient reached for a blanket and felt a sharp pin prick which she discovered was caused by a needle stuck in the skin of her right index finger. The patient pulled out the needle and gave it to a nurse.

   The nurse told the patient the patient would be able to see a copy of the hospital incident report, which would reveal the results of the hospital’s investigation of how the needle had previously been used.

   However, later when the patient asked for a copy of the incident report the hospital refused to provide it. Instead, the hospital advised the patient she should assume the needle was infectious and get tested for HIV right away and after three, six and twelve months.

   The patient got tested and was HIV-negative. Nevertheless, she and her husband sued the hospital for emotional distress, for being denied vital information and for being led to believe she was at grave risk or had contracted HIV.

   The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, sided with the patient and her husband. The court faulted the hospital for waiting to send the needle out for testing, then for refusing to give the patient a copy of the final incident report.

   The lab determined the needle most likely was not used on another patient before this patient was stuck, and that the needle posed absolutely no risk of HIV transmission. The court ruled the patient had the right to this information, and could file suit for damages because it was denied to her. Fosby v. Albany Memorial Hospital, 675 N.Y.S. 2d 231 (N.Y. App., 1998).