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New York Court Discusses Evidence of Patient-Physician Relationships in Malpractice Claims

It is not uncommon for a facility that treats patients with substance abuse issues to employ doctors that generally oversee patient care. In many instances, such physicians have little if any contact with the patients. Diminished patient contact does not excuse them from the obligation to provide competent care, though, and doctors that render negligent treatment can be held liable for medical malpractice. Recently, a New York court issued an opinion discussing the evidence needed to establish the liability of a doctor that oversaw a patient’s care in a drug addiction treatment facility, ultimately ruling that the doctor was not accountable for the patient’s death. If you or a loved one suffered harm in a hospital, it is advisable to speak to a Syracuse hospital malpractice lawyer about your potential claims.

The Patient’s Care

It is reported that the patient was admitted to a care facility for substance abuse treatment. The defendant doctor oversaw the medical department and was responsible for the supervision of the medical staff. When the patient was admitted, a physician assistant examined her, and she was prescribed Suboxone, which the medical records indicated were per the verbal order of the defendant. The defendant never met the patient.

Allegedly, the evening after the patient’s admission, she vomited. She was examined, but no further action was taken. The following morning she was found unresponsive, and she was transported to another hospital. She later died. The patient’s parents filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging he committed medical malpractice. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the court ultimately granted his motion.

Establishing a Departure from the Standard of Care

Pursuant to New York law, a patient-physician relationship is created when a doctor’s professional services are given to and accepted by a person for the purposes of medical treatment. Whether a doctor’s act of giving advice is an adequate basis for concluding that a patient-physician relationship existed is generally a question for the jury.

In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant made a prima facie showing that he did not deviate from the accepted and good practice of medicine, as required to obtain dismissal via summary judgment under New York law. Specifically, he produced expert affidavits stating that he was not the patient’s doctor as he had no communication or contact with her and that regardless, he was not negligent in performing his duties as the medical director of the facility. The plaintiff failed to offer evidence to rebut these allegations and ultimately failed to establish that a patient-physician relationship existed. Thus, the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed.

Speak to a Seasoned Syracuse Attorney

If the doctors in a drug addiction treatment facility fail to properly care for their patients, it can have devastating consequences. If you were harmed by negligent care in a hospital, you might be able to pursue a hospital malpractice claim, and you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our seasoned medical malpractice attorneys have the skills and experience needed to help you pursue the best outcome available in your case. You can contact us via our online form or at 315-479-9000 to set up a conference.

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