Policies should be in place to help providers make decisions about impaired patients. The legal matters to consider in developing a policy are breach of confidentiality (Part I, last week), duty to warn, duty to report, and authority to detain (Part II, today).

Duty to warn

Taken from tort law, this refers to the failure of a person or party to warn another of a hazard when that person had an opportunity to do so. Liability for injuries falls on the individual(s) that failed to warn.

Duty to report 

Federal law required healthcare providers to report certain conditions or findings, such as child abuse or communicable diseases. The law does not apply to the intoxicated or impaired patient. Some states, however, require reporting of intoxicated drivers.

Authority to detain 

Healthcare providers have no authority to detain a patient against his or her will. This can only be done legally by obtaining an involuntary commitment for the person who poses a threat to himself or others.


This month’s civil topic is “Patient Safety: Intoxication”  Areas of discussion:

  • Case Scenario (9/1/14)
  • Documentation (9/8/14)
  • Policies, Part I (9/15/14)
  • Policies, Part II (9/22/14)

Note: To see all posts in this topic, click here.

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