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TAANA Position Papers

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  • 06 Jun 2007 6:24 PM | TAANA Executive Office (Administrator)

    TAANA's Amicus Brief Supporting a Nurse's Non-Negotiable Duty to Advocate

    View the Amicus Brief in its entirety (PDF)

    View the Table of Authorities

    TAANA member, Diane Warlick, recently wrote a compelling Amicus Brief on behalf of TAANA in the case of Ellen Hughes Finnerty v. Board of Registered Nurses, Court of Appeals for the State of California, Cause No. B 200659. Another TAANA member, Phyllis Gallagher, raised awareness of the situation shortly after the entry of the California Board of Nursing ruling against her client. The case concerns a nurse's duty to serve as a vigilant advocate for the safety and rights of a patient in the face of a doctor's order that the nurse believes to endanger the patient. The brief filed on behalf of TAANA references the longstanding history of tension between the medical and nursing professions. As stated by Warlick, "… There are clearly areas of overlap in the scopes of practice of nursing and medicine, yet they remain clearly separate and distinct professions."

    Issues raised by the brief:

    1. The professionalism of nursing practice no longer requires nurses to blindly follow orders that may cause harm.
    2. The standards of nursing practice and the Nursing Code of Ethics establish duties condone a nurse's refutation of a physician's order that she believes would cause harm.
    3. Public policy concerns for a board's infringement on a nurse's duty to exercise professional judgment.
    4. The distinction between errors in judgment carried out in good faith versus malpractice and related degrees of appropriate penalties.
    5. The discipline of the exercise of nursing judgment and the resulting detriment to future patients in need of nursing advocacy.

    Once again, TAANA is proud not only to advocate excellence and support the profession of nursing, but to commend the excellent work of fellow nurse attorneys and TAANA members, Diane Warlick and Phyllis Gallagher.

    Contact: Patricia M. Adkinson

    Address: 7794 Grow Drive Pensacola, FL 32514-7072 Phone: (850) 474-3646 Fax: (850) 484-8762


    Pensacola, Fla - The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA) recently announced that the Illinois Supreme Court responded positively to TAANA's Amicus Brief submitted in the case of Sullivan v. Edward Hosp., No. 95409, 2004 WL 228956 (Ill. Feb. 5, 2004) when the court issued its decision on February 5, 2004. Citing extensively to the TAANA brief and also to the authorities cited by TAANA, the court ruled that only a nurse is qualified to offer opinion evidence as to the nursing standard of care.

    The brief was drafted after almost two years of research by members of the TAANA Litigation Section and was written by Karen Butler, Chair of the Litigation Section. The Chicago Chapter of TAANA, particularly, Leatrice Schmidt, reviewed and submitted the brief. The issue, in brief, was whether a physician, who is not a nurse, should be permitted to offer expert opinion evidence, as to the standard of care for nurses. The TAANA position is that nurses and only nurses have the authority and responsibility to define the scope and practice of nursing. The Illinois Trial Lawyers also submitted an Amicus Brief arguing that physicians can do anything a nurse can do and, therefore, a physician can always testify as to the standard of care for nurses.

    To contact Karen Butler, call Thuillez, Ford, Gold, Johnson & Butler at 518-455-995,

    The American Association of Nurse Attorneys is a professional association that serves as a resource network for nurse attorneys and educates the public on matters of nursing, health care and the law.

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