Causey v. St. Francis Medical Center

Causey v. St. Francis Medical Center 719 So. 2d 1072 (La. Ct. App. 1998)
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Plaintiffs, the Causey family, brought this petition for damages against defendants, St. Francis Medical Center (SFMC) and Dr. Harter, for administering treatment to decedent, Sonya Causey, without consent which they argued as an intentional tort outside of the scope of Louisiana’s Medical Malpractice Act. Claims that fell within the Medical Malpractice Act must be submitted to a medical review board before action can be filed.

Ms. Causey suffered cardiac arrest and was transferred to SFMC from her nursing home. Her treating physician, Dr. Harter, believed that while Mrs. Causey could live on for another two years with dialysis and a ventilator, she would only have 1%-5% chance of regaining consciousness. He therefore did not believe there was a benefit to pursuing additional life saving measures and viewed them as “medically inappropriate.”

Since the family wanted to pursue these measures, Dr. Harter sought unsuccessfully to transfer Mrs. Causey to another facility that was willing to provide this care. The SFMC Ethic’s Board agreed with Dr. Harter’s opinion to discontinue life support procedures and did so without the consent of the Causey family. The day the ventilator was removed, Mrs. Causey died.

The question for the Court was whether defendants met the standard of care that was due. The Court held that this inquiry fell within the scope of the Medical Malpractice Act and therefore should first be submitted to a medical review panel. The Court’s reasoning for this decision was that determining whether the defendant’s actions met the standard of care was predicated on what constitutes “medically inappropriate” by a consensus of physicians practicing in that speciality.

Affirmed.

“A physician's obligation to obtain informed consent is both an ethical requirement and a legal standard of care derived from principles of individual integrity and self-determination.” Causey v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., 719 So. 2d 1072, 1075 (La. App. 2d Cir. 1998)

 

“Despite the lack of any consent, defendants proceeded to withdraw what they considered to be “medically inappropriate” treatment.” Causey v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., 719 So. 2d 1072, 1076 (La. App. 2d Cir. 1998)

“Standards of medical malpractice require a physician to act with the degree of skill and care ordinarily possessed by those in that same medical speciality acting under the same or similar circumstances. Departure from this prevailing standard of care, coupled with harm, may result in professional malpractice liability.” Causey v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., 719 So. 2d 1072, 1076 (La. App. 2d Cir. 1998)

“A finding that treatment is “medically inappropriate” by a consensus of physicians practicing in that speciality translates into a standard of care. Thus, in this case, whether Dr. Harter and SFMC met the standard of care concerning the withdrawal of dialysis, life-support procedures and the entering of a “no code” status must be determined.” Causey v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., 719 So. 2d 1072, 1076 (La. App. 2d Cir. 1998)

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