Resident physicians, attending physicians, and graduate medical education (GME) institutions share a collective responsibility to deliver safe and appropriate care to patients. The law does not offer concessions in quality of care to accommodate GME. Resident physicians are generally held to the same standard of care as attending physicians in their respective specialties. This principle encourages resident physicians to seek supervision and attending physicians to provide the same. Attending physicians face malpractice exposure not only for the care they provide but also for the care they direct. In addition, they may be held vicariously liable for the negligence of resident physicians working with them, or directly liable for inadequate supervision. What constitutes adequate supervision is unsettled in the law. As the standards in this area evolve, it is reasonable to expect that the profession's and the public's heightened attention to patient safety will continue to move the courts toward higher standards of supervision. GME institutions and programs bear legal responsibility for both the care they deliver and the negligence of their employees. They also face liability for failing administer safe systems of care. Work hour restrictions and a growing understanding of the role of organizational factors in contributing to and preventing medical injury may increase the legal expectations imposed on GME programs.
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