Consultation: Dispensing Advice Does Not Create Physician-Patient Relationship

April 1, 2012 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​Merely dispensing advice informally over the telephone does not automatically create a physician-patient relationship, an Illinois appellate court has ruled. In the ruling, the court affirmed a lower court's dismissal of a suit brought by the parents of a two-month-old boy whose death from bacterial meningitis they alleged could have been averted had appropriate advice been given during a telephone call.

When the infant was six weeks old, his mother contacted the hospital because the child had a high fever, was very fussy, and refused to sleep or eat; her regular pediatrician was unavailable, and her son had been treated at the hospital before. The hospital operator transferred the call to the emergency department (ED), where an unidentified individual told the mother that she was likely overreacting to the child's symptoms. The individual recommended that the mother administer Tylenol, give tepid baths, and follow up with the pediatrician in the morning; the mother was directed to contact a...

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