Maryland Court Discusses Duties Imposed by the Doctor-Patient Relationship

Under Maryland law, it is anticipated that doctors will provide their patients with competent care. Thus, if a doctor fails to properly perform their professional duties and a patient suffers harm as a result, the doctor may be found liable for medical malpractice. Doctors only owe duties to their patients, however. As such, they cannot be deemed responsible for harm that arises outside of the treatment offered pursuant to a doctor-patient relationship, as shown in a recent medical malpractice ruling.  If you were harmed by your healthcare provider’s recklessness, you may be owed compensation, and you should confer with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney about your potential claims.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff wife underwent a cardiac ablation that was performed by the defendant. Two weeks after the ablation, she had a follow up visit with the defendant; she did not report any symptoms at that time. Eleven days later, though, she began experiencing symptoms of a stroke and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. A critical care specialist at the hospital called the defendant at the plaintiff husband’s urging and informed him of the plaintiff wife’s symptoms.

Allegedly, the specialist asked the defendant about the ablation and asked him if he had any ideas regarding the plaintiff’s symptoms. The defendant did not inform the specialist that an atrio-esophageal fistula (AEF) could be a side effect of an ablation and could cause the plaintiff wife’s symptoms. The plaintiff wife was subsequently diagnosed with AEF after she suffered a series of strokes that left her in a vegetative state. The plaintiffs instituted medical malpractice claims against the defendant, who moved for summary judgment on the grounds that there was no patient-doctor relationship at the time of the call from the specialist to the defendant. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff husband appealed.   

Proving the Existence of a Doctor-Patient Relationship

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that the existence of a patient-doctor relationship is an issue of fact. As such, it is generally a question that is best left to the jury unless it can clearly be resolved as a matter of law. The court went on to say that mutual consent is necessary to establish a patient-doctor relationship, namely the patient’s consent to treatment and the doctor’s acceptance of the patient.

The relationship may be express or implied and, in some instances, may arise out of the patient’s primary care physician’s consultation with another doctor. In the subject case, the court found that facts raised a genuine issue as to the existence of the doctor-patient relationship. Thus, it reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Skillful Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

Doctors have an obligation to offer thorough and capable care to their patients, and if their omissions and oversights cause their patients to suffer harm, they should be held accountable. If you were hurt by a negligent physician, you might be able to recover damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and you should meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The skillful Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can assess the facts of your case and advise you regarding what evidence you need to establish liability. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at (410) 889-1850 to set up a meeting.

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