In the health care arena, scientific research has established knowledge that experts use to create evidence-based practices for patient safety. Infection Control Today notes that ignoring these practices may be medical negligence.
Hand washing is one of the practices that can have devastating effects when staff fails to perform it properly and frequently.
Hospital-acquired infections have quite a few risk factors, and among them are the frequency that doctors, nurses, care providers and staff wash their hands and the care that they use during invasive procedures. Infections often occur at sites where caregivers insert intravenous needles as well as catheters.
Patients who already have severe conditions often also have a low immune system capacity. It can be fatal for a patient to encounter bacteria carried from another patient by a nurse who checks a catheter and does not wash his or her hands.
Although a specific person may have instigated the infection with poor hand hygiene, it may be the hospital that is liable in a lawsuit. After the fact, even close investigation may not uncover which of the many people who came in contact with the patient was responsible. Hand washing should be an organizationally enforced practice, so someone could argue that the facility should have been more vigilant at training and enforcing hand washing.
Not everyone who works at a facility is an employee, though. It could be that a surgeon working as an independent contractor did not observe proper hygiene practices. In that case, the claim would be against the surgeon individually.
Doctors and hospitals carry significant amounts of liability insurance. Often, the victim or family members work out a settlement while others may decide to go to court to seek justice.