Another type of abandonment that most people are not aware of is when a doctor turns over an important part of your care to someone who is less qualified. In a Michigan case, an anesthesiologist told a patient that he would give her anesthesia during her surgery. He turned her care over to a nurse anesthetist as soon as the patient was asleep. The nurse anesthetist let the tube slip out of the patient’s trachea, causing severe hypoxia (lack of oxygen), cardiac arrest, and death. The patient’s family sued the anesthesiologist for abandonment and won. It was malpractice for the anesthesiologist to have turned the patient’s care over to the nurse anesthetist, who was less qualified, without informing the patient before surgery and obtaining her consent.
Residents do All or Part of the Surgery
Today, many hospitals train doctors, called residents, to become specialists. It is common for surgeons to let residents do all, or part, of the surgeries on the surgeon’s private patients, under the surgeon’s supervision. Some academic medical centers require surgeons to let residents do all the surgery, even on the surgeon’s private patients. Even so, it is not uncommon for surgeons to charge patients for the surgery and not tell them about the switch or who actually performed the surgery.
Medical Treatment and Surgery as a Non-Assignable Contract
An ophthalmologist admitted a patient to a New York City hospital for delicate eye surgery. The hospital’s rules required the ophthalmologist to let the resident in Ophthalmology perform the surgery. After surgery, the resident told the patient that he was the one who had performed the surgery, and the patient sued the ophthalmologist. Why? When a doctor undertakes to treat you as his patient, it is called a Non-Assignable Contract. The doctor has to do it himself and cannot turn your treatment over to someone else without your consent. Medical treatment, and especially surgery, fits the description of a Non-Assignable Contract. When you hire a doctor, you are paying for that doctor’s special skills, and you do not want another doctor working on you, especially if you are under anesthesia and if it is a doctor you have never heard of. If your doctor lets someone else work on you, without your knowledge and consent, your doctor is liable for any bad results. Even if the person who performed the surgery did not actually commit malpractice, because it is reasonable to suppose you would not have gotten the bad result, had your doctor had lived up to his obligation. Even if the results are good, your doctor has still breached his contract with you. If you had wanted to be treated by a resident, you would have saved your money and gone to the medical center’s clinic.
The Rule Is: Once a physician or dentist accepts you as his patient, he has to take care of you until you are cured, or turn your treatment over to another qualified doctor with your knowledge and consent, or he has to give you adequate notice that he is dropping you as a patient.
Thousands of patients suffer, due to medical and dental malpractice, and do not get the compensation they deserve. If you are a victim of malpractice, or your client is a victim of malpractice, contact JD.MD, Inc., today at 800-225-5363. We can provide you with an initial case evaluation or an expert’s opinion.