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Patient Affair: Medical Malpractice in New York

Posted on Jan 08, 2013

New York’s highest court recently ruled that it was medical malpractice for a Long Island doctor to have an affair with a married patient who he treated for anxiety and depression.

The New York Court of Appeals upheld a jury award of $338,000 in damages to the plaintiff. Because the jury found that the plaintiff was 25 percent responsible for the affair, the damage award will be reduced by 25 percent. The Court also eliminated the $166,000 award of punitive damages. The Court determined that punitive damages were inappropriate because it found that the doctor did not act maliciously.

The nine-month affair between the doctor and his patient led to the plaintiff’s divorce from her husband. She later sued the doctor for medical malpractice.

Attorneys for the patient argued that her romantic feelings resulted from “eroticized transference,” because she shifted her emotions towards her therapist. The doctor argued that the affair was consensual and unrelated to the patient’s treatment, since the patient originally sought treatment for a gastrointestinal problem.

The Court ruled that where the doctor prescribed treatment for the plaintiff’s mental health problems that included medication and counseling, a jury might reasonably conclude that the sexual relationship was substantially related to and, in fact, did interfere with the patient’s treatment. The Court’s decision was unanimous.

When a therapist has a sexual relationship with a patient, it is—at the very least—a breach of professional ethics and duty of care. Sadly, such inappropriate relationships happen all the time. For more information about medical malpractice law in Idaho, contact the Boise personal injury law firm, Morton Law Offices, Chartered. You may reach the law firm by calling 888-716-8021 or by filling out an online form.

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