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Doctor's affair with patient ruled medical malpractice

A married woman in a state adjacent to Pennsylvania had an affair with a doctor who was treating her for mental health and related sexual problems. The extramarital relationship ended but so did the woman's marriage because of the affair. The patient's mental distress was behind the filing of a medical malpractice complaint against the physician.

The plaintiff's attorneys argued that the woman was due compensation because she was incapable of ending the affair due to "eroticized transference." The condition makes a patient's romantic inclinations toward a physician irresistible and apparently unstoppable.

Court records say the patient consulted the doctor in 2000 for issues with anxiety and depression. The defendant prescribed and then stopped anti-depressant medications, which interfered with the patient's sex life. The doctor then prescribed a therapist, stress-relieving baths and an exercise program.

More than a year after the patient's first visit, during an exercise consultation at a gym, the patient and doctor initiated an affair. The sexual relationship continued for about nine months. When the patient's husband learned of the encounters, he divorced his wife.

A court did not find the patient blameless. The jury assigned 25 percent of the negligence to the patient and 75 percent to the doctor. The physician erred by not "managing" the eroticized transference and allowing the affair to "interfere" with patient treatment.

More than $330,000 in mental distress and wage loss damages was awarded along with $166,000 in punitive damages. The patient's share of the blame was subtracted from the total award.

The case went to an appeals court who agreed with the lower court ruling except for the punitive damages award. The Court of Appeals could not justify that the doctor had engaged in "evil or malicious conduct."

Neglecting patient care is cause for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Victims who are physically or psychologically harmed by the carelessness of a health care provider receive compensation for legitimate damages.

Source:, "Is an adulterous affair grounds for malpractice?" Ann W. Latner, Dec. 18, 2012

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