Impaired Physicians Need To Inform Patients of Risks

Impaired Physicians Need To Inform Patients of Risks
Jun 5, 2018

Patients put their trust in their doctors – particularly those who perform surgical procedures on them. If a doctor is suffering from a physical condition that affects his or her ability to perform an operation on the patient safely, shouldn’t the patient have a right to know that? Unfortunately, Georgia courts have held that a doctor does not need to tell his patient about personal issues, such as alcohol or drug use, and that the failure to advise a patient of those issues cannot form the basis of a lawsuit. However, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently held that a physician’s failure to inform a patient about a medical condition that directly affects his ability to provide treatment may amount to a legal fraud.

The case, Holmes v. Lyons, decided on June 1, 2018, involved a woman who suffered an injury during a gynecological surgery. The defendant doctor who performed the surgery had previously applied for disability benefits on the grounds that he was physically incapable of doing surgery as a result of certain physical limitations and ailments; however, the plaintiff-patient did not know this when she underwent the procedure. Although the trial court threw the case out based on prior court opinions addressing the issue of informed consent, the appellate court reversed the decision and allowed the case to stand. Warshauer Woodward Atkins attorney Lyle Griffin Warshauer assisted in writing a brief to the Court arguing for the ruling that was ultimately obtained in favor of the plaintiff.

This is good news for consumer-patients in Georgia. Although there are many aspects of the medical field that remain shrouded in secrecy, this is one step in favor of transparency, and will provide some assurance that patients are not deceived when they are making decision about who best can manage their medical care.