Case 97-10267

Appeal No. 97-10267. Cass civ I, 7 October 1998.
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Country: France
Region: Europe
Year: 2005
Court: Cour de cassation [Court of Cassation]
Health Topics: Health information, Informed consent, Medical malpractice
Human Rights: Right of access to information, Right to health
Tags: Awareness, Duty of care, Informed choice, Notification, Patient choice, Standard of care

Mrs. X was treated for persistent kyphosis (curvature of the spine) by Dr. Y. After her spinal graft operation, she developed a problem with her eye known as cavernous sinus thrombosis. As a result, she lost sight in her left eye.

Mrs. X sued Dr. Y for failing to inform her about all of the risks of the procedure. The lower court held that Dr. Y had no obligation to inform Mrs. X about the potential to develop cavernous sinus thrombosis because it is such a rare condition that it was not “reasonably foreseeable” that Mrs. X would develop it.

On appeal, the Court of Cassation reversed the lower court's decision and held that Dr. Y had a duty to inform patients of all risks of procedure, no matter how rare those risks might be, except in cases of emergency, impossibility, or a patient's refusal to be informed. Dr. Y had breached his duty by failing to inform Mrs. X of all the potential risks of her procedure.

"Attendu qu'hormis les cas d'urgence, d'impossibilité ou de refus du patient d'être informé, un médecin est tenu de lui donner une information loyale, claire et appropriée sur les risques graves afférents aux investigations et soins proposés et qu'il n'est pas dispensé de cette obligation par le seul fait que ces risques ne se réalisent qu'exceptionnellement." Page 1.

"Whereas, except for cases of emergency, of impossibility, or refusal of the patient to be informed, a doctor must give fair, clear, and appropriate information about the serious risks relating to procedures and proposed treatments, and he is not exempted from this obligation by the mere fact that the risks are only realized in exceptional cases." Page 1.

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