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Appeals court to decide whether affair was medical malpractice

Medical malpractice is a very complicated area of law in Michigan and throughout the U.S. In general, medical malpractice has occurred when a doctor or another medical professional fails to meet the standards of care for the profession and this failure results in injury to a patient. This is sometimes the case with failure to diagnose or treat diseases, medication errors, surgical errors and more.

In order for a medical professional or organization to be held liable for such injuries, it is generally necessary to prove that a medical professional was negligent in treating the patient--that the professional's conduct fell below an accepted standard of medical care. A current court case shows us how complicated medical malpractice claims can become when they involve psychiatric medicine. An appeals court in another state is currently trying to decide whether a doctor's affair with a patient constituted medical malpractice or simply unprofessionalism.

In this case, a former model sought treatment for a gastrointestinal infection from a doctor in 2000. The doctor, who was married, also prescribed the patient medication for depression and in 2001 began a sexual relationship with her. The affair lasted about 10 months, and in 2004 the patient filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, claiming he took advantage of her mental state. As a consequence of the affair, her husband left her and she lost partial custody of their child, which resulted in further depression.

The woman was awarded a psychiatric malpractice award 0f $500,000, but it was later reduced to $416,000 due to her partial responsibility in consenting to the relationship.

The doctor has now appealed this decision, saying his behavior was unethical but did not constitute malpractice, and the case is before a state supreme court.

A ruling is expected later this month.

Source: CTPost.com, "NY court weighs affair as medical malpractice," Michael Virtanen, Oct. 20, 2012

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