The Practice of Lviv District Court and the Lviv Court of Appeals in Cases on Medical Practitioner’s Malpractice in 1919–1939

Keywords: medical practitioners’ malpractice, history of Ukrainian medical law, Lviv Court of Appeals, hospital sickness funds

Abstract

The article is dedicated to a historical-legal research on the practice of the Lviv District Court and the Lviv Court of Appeals during the period of 1919-1939, when the Lviv oblast was under the reign of the Second Rzeczpospolita Polska. The concept of the article is aimed to research upon the roots of the medical law of Ukraine, which are underinvestigated, and have rarely became an object of a complex historical-legal research by Ukrainian scholars. The material for the research was found in the Central State Historical Archive of Ukraine in the City of Lviv, and the work with the cases required substantial time and effort to explore and comment upon the cases, heard by the Lviv District Court and the Lviv Court of Appeals in 1919-1939 relating to medical malpractice. The findings of the author displayed, that the courts heard quite a lot of criminal cases on illegitimate abortions, conducted by either medical practitioners and midwives, or by amateurs, as well as a number of civil and criminal cases on medical malpractice in terms of negligence or unsuccessful treatment. In the introduction, the author provides an explanation on medical malpractice liability in the law of Austria (later Austria-Hungary), namely the Criminal Code of 1852, which was still active in the Lviv oblast until the early 1930s. The author discussed a number of old Austrian and Austrian-Hungarian legal cases dealing with medical malpractice, where severe medical malpractice and the physician’s failure to provide medical assistance to a patient were punishable under the provisions of the Criminal Code, whereas moderate malpractice was tortious under the provisions of the Civil Code. The cases, which were heard by the Lviv District Court and the Lviv Court of Appeals were grouped by the subject of the offence/lawsuit: namely, an illegitimate abortion (the legacy relating to these cases was quite substantial), severe medical malpractice of the physician, which caused the demise of the patient, and civil lawsuits of the patients against the hospital sickness funds (which operated in Lviv those days) because of an unsuccessful, or an allegedly negligent medical treatment. The abortion cases were briefly discussed, as the author expects the said cases to be discussed in detail in the subsequent historical-legal publications, whereas the case KA:181/37, adjudicated by the Lviv Court of Appeals (Judgment of September 11, 1937) was discussed in details, as this notorious case featured a criminal trial against four physicians, and later reached the cassational instance, which was the Supreme Court of the Second Rzeczpospolita Polska those days (case 2 K. 2617/37, Judgment of September 28, 1938). In this case, the ordinator of a gynecological-maternity ward, and three other members of the medical staff were accused in the demise of a woman, who contracted a postpartum fever at the hospital (the two midwives were acquitted, the conviction of the deputy of the ordinator was not mentioned in the appellate court decision, only the ordinator appealed). The Lviv Court of Appeals found, that defendant failed to ensure adequate sanitary-hygienical measures in the ward; later, the defendant lodged an appeal in cassation, which was dismissed. In fact, this case was not the only case on medical malpractice, adjudicated by the courts of Lviv, and which later reached the cassational instance, which was the Supreme Court of the Second Rzeczpospolita Polska those days. An another case of the Supreme Court of the Second Rzeczpospolita Polska, C II Rw. 3034/33 (Judgment of May 8, 1934) was heard by the Lviv District Court and the Lviv Court of Appeals as the first and appellate instances: at present time, the information relating to these two judgments is clarified, and the two afore-mentioned judgments are expected to be discussed in the further research. This case was notable for the discussion on the patient’s consent to medical treatment: the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a physician and a hospital sickness fund, alleging that because of the physician’s negligence in conducting a cystoscopic examination, the plaintiff began suffering from a kidney disease, as well as a number of other ailments. One of the peculiar circumstances of the case was that the physician did not inform the patient on the possible negative consequences of the medical examination, which was found to be a violation of law by the Supreme Court of the Second Rzeczpospolita Polska (what is more, upon the findings of the lower courts, the physician was not obliged to inform the patient upon the fact that the procedure could cause damage to the patient, and thus to obtain the patient’s consent), and the case was remanded to the trial court. The case 2 K. 598/38 (Judgment of April 19, 1938), which was heard by the Supreme Court of the Second Rzeczpospolita Polska, was an appeal in cassation by a midwife, who was convicted for conducting an illegal abortion – herein, the appellate instance in the case was the Lviv Court of Appeals (case KA:18/38, Judgment of January 25, 1938); this appeal was dismissed. Two other legal cases, which were discussed in the article, were civil cases, where the plaintiffs sued for damages because of an unsuccessful, or an allegedly negligent medical treatment: in the first case, the plaintiff suffered from a vertebral ailment, which subsequently rendered him disabled, and he claimed that the department of social security did not provide him with all necessary medical care, the medical personnel behaved inattentively towards him, and one of the doctors (who was also the defendant in this case), who conducted rehabilitation physical exercises, performed them in such a negligent way, that he broke his leg. However, the courts found, that the deplorable health condition of the plaintiff was a consequence of the severity of the disease, but not by the negligence of the doctors, and the services provided by the department of social security to the plaintiff, were bound to the existing regulations, and the physician, who conducted rehabilitation physical exercises, was diligent, and the casualty with the plaintiff’s leg was caused by the fragility of plaintiff’s bones. The Lviv District Court in its judgment of October 25, 1938 (case Sygn. I.2.C.J.1786/35), dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit, and the Lviv Court of Appeals (judgment of May 30, 1939; case I.CA.170/39), dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal, affirming the judgment of the Lviv District Court of October 25, 1938 (case Sygn. I.2.C.J.1786/35). The last case, which was discussed in the article, was the judgment of the Lviv District Court of February 27, 1939 (case I.C.J. 1596/37), where the plaintiff was a minor, who was represented by his father, filing a lawsuit against the department of social security claiming that the defendant’s hospital was negligent in treating his son, causing a breach of the humerus (shoulder bone); the father took the son away from the hospital without explaining any reasons of doing so on the next day as his son was admitted to the hospital, and the evidence showed that there was no fault from the side of the medical personnel relating to the breach of the patient’s humerus (shoulder bone). The lawsuit was dismissed by the Lviv District Court, and this decision was appealed (the information regarding the appellate court decision is being clarified).

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Published
2022-10-13
How to Cite
Lytvynenko , A. A. (2022). The Practice of Lviv District Court and the Lviv Court of Appeals in Cases on Medical Practitioner’s Malpractice in 1919–1939. Medicne Pravo, (2(30), 49-63. https://doi.org/10.25040/medicallaw2022.02.049
Section
Articles