Doctor’s Affair With Patient Leads to Malpractice Lawsuit

The patient-doctor relationship is one that depends on the utmost trust and understanding. The proper treatment and sustained health of the patient should be the intended outcome of every medical office visit. Unfortunately, a medical relationship can sometimes be driven by temptation across ethical boundaries, exposing vulnerable patients to unforeseen personal, health, and financial trouble.

Only a short train ride from Stamford, one Long Island family doctor faced a $416,500 medical malpractice lawsuit earlier this month as a result of a past affair with a patient being treated for a gastrointestinal condition. The nine-month tryst, which ended in 2002, ultimately resulted in the patient’s divorce from her husband.

Prosecuting attorneys raised allegations that the doctor had breached his patient’s trust, giving her medication during the affair for psychological conditions that included depression and panic attacks. Although claims made in court by the doctor attempt to characterize his behavior as highly unethical but not malpractice, a jury in the case found otherwise.

75 percent culpability through malpractice on the doctor’s part was determined on account of “mental distress and economic loss.” The man was also criticized by the case’s chief judge for taking advantage of the patient’s vulnerable mental condition and exploiting his superior medical knowledge throughout the ordeal.

In every interaction with patients, doctors must be mindful of the privileged position they inhabit. Full and swift recovery must remain the driving motivation behind these relations. When unethical actions cause malpractice to occur, contacting a legal advocate skilled in medical malpractice litigation can help secure patients’ rights and set a strong example for medical professionalism everywhere.

Source: CT Post, “NY court weighs affair as medical malpractice,” Michael Virtanen, Oct. 20, 2012