Maryland Court Analyzes Whether an Ethical Violation Constitutes Medical Malpractice

In Maryland, the essential elements of a medical malpractice claim are a breach of the applicable standard of care and harm caused by the breach. Thus, even if a physician commits an egregious act, it may not be considered malpractice if the plaintiff cannot establish the elements required to impose liability on the physician. This was demonstrated in a recent case in which the U.S. District Court of Maryland ruled that although a doctor who engages in a sexual relationship with a patient commits an ethical violation, the violation in and of itself is not sufficient to sustain a malpractice claim. If you were harmed by inappropriate medical care, it is important to speak with a skillful Maryland medical malpractice attorney to discuss your potential claims.

Facts Surrounding the Plaintiff’s Treatment

The plaintiff worked as an office manager for the defendant physician at the defendant medical practice. The plaintiff became ill, after which the defendant began treating the plaintiff. Throughout her illness, the defendant physician treated the plaintiff, including attempting a surgical repair of a hernia and repairing a surgical incision. On several occasions, the defendant physician demanded sexual intercourse as payment for his medical services. The plaintiff was ultimately terminated, after which she filed a lawsuit against the defendants, asserting medical malpractice, negligent supervision, and sexual harassment claims. The defendants filed motions to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.

Ethical Violations May Not Constitute Medical Malpractice

With regard to the plaintiff’s medical malpractice claims, the court stated that under Maryland law, it is axiomatic that a plaintiff alleging malpractice must prove the applicable standard of care, a departure from the standard, and harm caused by the departure. The court noted that the plaintiff’s medical malpractice claims arose out of the defendant physician’s demands that she exchange sexual favors as a payment for medical services, on occasions when sexual intercourse was prohibited due to her diminished health.

In its analysis, the court explained that Maryland did not have a well-developed body of case law regarding the interaction between ethical violations and medical malpractice. Specifically, the court explained that while it was clear under Maryland case law that a doctor who conducts a sexual relationship with a patient commits an ethical violation, only one case previously decided by the District Court considered whether the violation constitutes medical malpractice. Thus, the court relied upon its previous ruling in holding that a sexual relationship between a patient and a doctor typically does not constitute malpractice unless the doctor is providing mental health or psychiatric treatment to the patient, or unless the doctor induces the patient’s consent to the activity by advising the patient that the activity is a required part of treatment.

In the subject case, the court noted that there were no allegations that the defendant physician treated the plaintiff for a mental health issue or advised the plaintiff that sexual intercourse was a required part of her treatment. Thus, the court found that the allegations set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint were insufficient to sustain a medical malpractice claim and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Meet with a Seasoned Malpractice Attorney

If you were injured by negligent medical care, it is wise to meet with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney regarding your harm and the damages that you may be able to pursue. The diligent attorneys at Arfaa Law Group have the knowledge and experience needed to help you set forth compelling arguments in favor of your recovery of compensation. You can contact us through our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

Contact Information