Affair with a patient ruled as medical malpractice

When individuals visit their doctors, most hope to get the appropriate treatment for what ails them and to manage their conditions. Generally, there is a belief that the doctor will be professional and not breach doctor-patient trust or do anything to undermine it. The term “medical malpractice” is mostly associated with wrong treatment, doctor errors and medical mistakes. New Jersey and New York residents, however, may find it interesting to know that the highest court in New York ruled that an affair with a patient constitutes medical malpractice.

The New York doctor had an affair with a married patient of his. The patient was under his care, and he treated her for depression and anxiety. The jury found that the doctor breached his professional duty by having repeated sexual relations with his patient. The jury, however, faulted the patient at 25 percent and reduced the damages accordingly, and the final jury award was $338,000.

The woman eventually told her husband, who divorced her. In her lawsuit, the woman said that the affair was the result of her “shifting feelings” on to her therapist. Her attorney said she was sexually exploited by the doctor.

Health care providers such as doctors, nurses, surgeons and pharmacists have an ongoing duty to provide a reasonable standard of care. When that duty is breached and harm results to a patient, the health care provider may be held negligent. A patient or the family of a patient may be able to recover damages as a result of the negligent acts of a doctor. Some recoverable damages included medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, wages, and pain and suffering.

Every case is different and unique. When a patient or his or her family is unsure of their next steps, it may help to seek expert advice in the matter and get an honest assessment of the facts.

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