Court: Affair is medical malpractice, doctor liable

Doctors must follow the acceptable standard of care for their profession. When they neglect to follow the standard of care or act in a way that deviates from the standard and their actions/inactions cause harm to a patient, they can be held accountable through a medical malpractice lawsuit. While med mal laws vary from state to state, that general concept is always present.

Thus, when a state’s highest court determines that it is medical malpractice to have an affair with a patient, we can expect other courts to follow suit. New York’s Court of Appeals recently upheld a jury verdict awarding $338,000 to a woman who claims a doctor who was treating her for depression and anxiety had an affair with her. However, the Court mitigated the damages because the woman actively participated in the affair.

While there was no “malicious conduct,” the doctor breached his duty to the patient. The court’s ruling was unanimous, claiming that a jury could conclude the relationship was related to the anxiety / depression treatment and may have interfered with treatment. In other words, the doctor’s actions may have caused the patient harm.

When we hear the words “medical malpractice,” we tend to think about birth injuries, surgical errors and other negligence causing physical injuries. Yet, as this case shows, it is also possible for doctors — and other professionals — to be held liable for breaching the standard of care owed to patients in other ways.

We put a high level of trust in our doctors. Doctors who fail to live up to that trust should be held accountable. If you believe you are the victim of any form of medical malpractice in Illinois, an experienced medical negligence lawyer can help you take the steps you need to prevent a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional from causing the same kind of harm to someone else.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “NY court says affair is medical malpractice,” Associated Press, Nov. 29, 2012

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