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NY Highest Court: Affair with Patient is Malpractice


Posted on Dec 22, 2012

New York's highest court has ruled that an affair can be considered medical malpractice.

Model Kristin Kahkonen Dupree first began seeing family doctor James E. Giugliano for a gastrointestinal condition. Dr. Giugliano is a Long Island osteopath, an alternative practitioner of medicine, who uses the nexus of body and mind to heal his patients' ailments.

Their extra-marital affair lasted nine months until 2002. Dupree then confessed to her husband, who thereafter sued for divorce. In 2005, Dupree sued Dr. Giugliano for malpractice.

Her lawyer contended that the affair was the result of "eroticized transference," or the redirection of romantic feelings for her doctor. This is often a problem for relations with therapists, which are not unlike osteopaths. Dr. Giugliano responded that the affair was consensual.

The Court of Appeals ruled that a jury could reasonably conclude the affair to be medical malpractice if they thought it was "substantially related" to the doctor's treatment of the patient. A jury awarded Dupree $154,000 for past mental distress, $50,000 for future mental distress, $134,000 for past loss of income, and $166,000 in punitive damages. The Court of Appeals vacated punitive damages, however, which required malicious intent beyond the basic breach of professional responsibilities, which plaintiff wasn't able to prove.

The Court also said that Dupree's voluntary participation in the affair gave her 25% responsibility. The final damages come out to $253,500.

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