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Pennsylvania court considers medical malpractice sex case

The Pennsylvania Supreme court recently issued a holding on a personal injury claim that could be of interest to many readers in our state. The holding stated that a medical malpractice suit against a general practice doctor could not prevail under the assertion that the doctor committed the malpractice by having sex with his patient while treating them for minor mental issues. This case may have some effect on such future claims in our state.

Prior to this case, a Pennsylvania court had held that doctors who had an affair with the spouse of a patient did not commit malpractice. Now, it appears that the court has also decided that general health practitioners cannot be barred from having consensual sex with patients, even if they provide an incidental level of mental health treatment to the patients. The case came from an affair between a general fractioned doctor and his married patient that occurred while she was being treated for illnesses such as depression in 2003.

Mental health doctors in our state are forbidden from having sexual relationships with their patients. If they do, they can be subject to medical malpractice claims from their patients. However, this particular case asked the court to extend those rules against sexual relations to general practitioners and family doctors who offer incidental mental health treatment.

If any person in Pennsylvania believes that a mental health doctor has committed medical malpractice, they may benefit from consulting with someone who is experienced in practicing this area of law to see whether this decision could affect such a case.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pa. Supreme Court rules general practitioners not held to sex prohibitions," Zack Needles, Oct. 15, 2012

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