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Legal Aspects of Nursing

Presented By Christine Hicks

Introduction General Legal Concepts Legal Basis for Nursing Legal Role of the Nurse Ethical Issues Ethical Responsibilities

Importance of Law to the Nurse

Nurses have more responsibility

Increased numbers of Advanced Practice Nurses Law is there to assist in the decision-making process involved in nursing practice

Law is there for the protection of nursing practice Law is there for the identification of the risk of liability

Effects of Law on Nursing Practice

Legal Basis for Nursing Practice--Licensure Guidelines for Care

Who is the Client--Age of Consent Emergency--Good Samaritan Act Abused Clients--Criminal Laws Use of Restraints Dying Patients wishes--Advanced Directives

Guidelines for Care (Continued)

Confidentiality--Invasion of Privacy Documentation Incident Reports

Role of Nurse as Witness

Witness in Criminal Cases Expert Witness

Negligence & Malpractice

Criminal Activity
Assault Battery Diversion of Narcotics

Contemporary Legislative Issues

Prescriptive Authority Delegation to Unlicensed Personnel Unsafe Staffing in the Workplace

Contemporary Roles for Nurses

General Legal Aspects

Definition of Law

Comes from the word which means that which is laid down or fixed Law is a rule or standard of human conduct established & enforced by authority, society, or custom

Law is established for the welfare of society

Law is not stagnant--changes when societys directs a change

Public Law
One type of law is Public Law which deals with an individuals relationship to the state Sources include Constitutional, Administrative & Criminal

These Sources occur on both the Federal & State level

Constitutional Law

Set of basic laws that defines & limits the powers of government Nurse maintains rights as an individual
Constitutional Rights, Civil Rights, State Constitution

Administrative Law

Developed by groups who are appointed to governmental administrative agencies Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act; Social Security Act; Nurse Practice Act

Criminal Law

Acts or offences against the welfare or safety of the public Controlled Substance Act; Criminal Codes

(See Page 230)

Civil Law
The second type of law is Civil Law which deals with crimes against a person or persons in such legal matters as:

Contracts Torts Protective Reporting Law

Contract Law is the enforcement of agreements among private individuals

Elements of:

Promise Mutual Understanding Compensation

Employment Contracts is an example of contract law under civil law

Tort Law is the enforcement of duties & rights among independent of contractual agreements. It is a civil wrong committed on a person or property stemming from either a direct invasion of some legal right of the person, infraction of some public duty, or the violation of some private obligation by which damages accrue to the person.

Examples of Tort Law include:

Negligence & Malpractice Assault & Battery False Imprisonment Restraints or Seclusion Invasion of Privacy Defamation Fraud

Negligence & Malpractice


Liability is an obligation one has incurred or might incur thru any act or failure to act Malpractice refers to the behavior of a professional persons wrongful conduct, improper discharge of professional duties, or failure to meet the standards of acceptable care which result in harm to another person


Negligence(breach of duty) is the failure of an individual to provide care that a reasonable person would ordinarily use in a similar circumstance Defendant is the person being sued Plaintiff is the party who initiates the lawsuit that seeks damages

Proof of Liability depends on:

Duty Breach of duty Injury Causation

Assault & Battery

Assault is the intentional & unlawful offer to touch a person in an offensive , insulting or physically intimidating manner Battery is the touching of another person without the persons consent

Protective/Reporting Laws are sometimes considered criminal laws based on state classification Examples include:

Americans with Disabilities Act Good Samaritan Act

Legal Basis for Nursing

Nurse Practice Act
Standards of Care

Legal Role of the Nurse

Provider of Service (p.234)

Ensure that client receives competent, safe, & holistic care Render care by standards of reasonable, prudent person Supervise/evaluate that which has been delegated

Provider of Service (continued)

Documentation of care

Maintain clinical competency