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Court upholds medical malpractice ruling in doctor-patient affair

Does a doctor's affair with a married patient constitute medical malpractice? Yes, according to a recent decision of a state court of appeals. However, the court also ruled, the patient shares the fault for the ongoing affair because of her willing participation in it.

According to court documents, the alleged medical malpractice began when the family doctor began to treat the patient for a gastrointestinal condition, followed by therapy sessions for anxiety and depression. It was during those sessions that the patient experienced "eroticized transference," her personal injury attorney argued in court, with her emotions shifting toward the doctor.

Those shifting emotions ultimately resulted in an affair between the doctor and the patient, which lasted for about nine months and ended in 2002. The patient later told her husband about the affair, and he filed for divorce.

In 2005, the patient sued her former doctor, alleging that he committed medical malpractice by taking advantage of her emotions and starting the affair. The court agreed, awarding the patient $338,000 in damages. The doctor appealed the ruling.

Last week, the appellate court upheld the damages award, but ruled that the patient was 25 percent at fault for the affair and reduced the damages amount by that percentage. The court also threw out an additional $166,000 punitive damages award, finding that the doctor had committed no malicious conduct beyond the breach of his professional duty.

This is certainly not your standard medical malpractice case, but it is an interesting example of the wide spectrum of potential claims in this field. What do you think of it?

Source: Connecticut Post, "NY court says affair is medical malpractice," Michael Virtanen, Nov. 29, 2012

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