The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed a jury instruction in a medical malpractice trial and concluded that the trial judge improperly advised the jury regarding the standard to apply for a doctor whose alleged negligence led to the death of the plaintiffs’ child.
During trial regarding the actions of Dr. Rowena Grumbine, the judge issued a set of jury instructions that included the following: "Under the law physicians are permitted a broad range of judgment in their professional duties and physicians are not liable for errors of judgment unless it’s proven that an error of judgment was the result of negligence.”
The Supreme Court ruled, citing a lower court’s review of records that the phrase "errors of judgment" is needlessly confusing, especially considering alternatives that are based on the key issue of whether or not a doctor or other medical professional provided the standard of care that a reasonable practitioner in the same field would use in treating a patient.
Further, the majority opinion noted that the Error of Judgment Rule "wrongly suggests to the jury that a physician is not culpable for one type of negligence, namely the negligent exercise of his or her judgment. This is simply untrue, and it wrongly injects a subjective element into the jury’s deliberations. The standard of care for physicians in Pennsylvania is objective in nature, as it centers on the knowledge, skill, and care normally possessed and exercised in the medical profession."
If the Error of Judgment Rule charge is given to the jury, the jury would likely focus on the state of mind of the doctor which is was irrelevant to the issue of negligent care.
You can find the Supreme Court opinion here.