Primary Care Physician Who Had Affair with Patient May Be Liable for Medical Malpractice

December 16, 2020 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Primary care physicians may be liable for medical malpractice for having a sexual relationship with a patient to whom they provided mental health services, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division One, has held. In this ​case, a genuine dispute of material fact remained regarding whether the doctor breached a duty to the patient, so the court remanded the case for further proceedings against the doctor. The court affirmed summary judgment for the health system.

The physician had been the family's primary care physician for about five years when he and the patient started an extramarital sexual relationship. According to the patient, the physician treated her for depression before and during the affair. About 10 months after the affair began, they ended the relationship. During this conversation, the physician allegedly threatened to kill himself, the patient, and the patient's husband. That evening, the physician died...

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