Washington Law Review


L. D. K.


Plaintiff was suffering from a highly malignant form of cancer resulting in serious obstruction of the trachea. He was admitted to the defendant hospital where it was determined that radiation therapy was necessary to reduce the obstruction before it completely blocked the plaintiff's breathing. After completion of the radiation therapy, plaintiff began to suffer from a progressive paralysis which plaintiff claimed was caused by damage to his spinal cord, attributable to the manner in which the radiation was administered. Plaintiff sued in the Superior Court for King County, alleging that since he was neither warned of the risk of damage to his spinal cord from the radiation nor informed that two courses of treatment were open to him, the defendant should be held liable for damages resulting from failure to obtain the plaintiff's informed consent. Judgment for the plaintiff was appealed to the Supreme Court of Washington. Held: Affirmed. A physician is liable for damages proximately resulting from his negligent failure to perform his duty to disclose to a patient the risk of serious harm which accompanies a proposed course of treatment, and to inform him of possible alternative procedures. This duty generally must be established by expert medical testimony or reasonable inferences drawn from such testimony. ZeBarth v. Swedish Hospital Medical Center, 81 Wn. 2d 12, 499 P.2d 1 (1972).

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