Levett v. Etkind

In Levett v. Etkind, 158 Conn. 567, 573, 265 A.2d 70 (1969), the plaintiff's decedent claimed negligence by a physician when the decedent fell in the physician's dressing room during a scheduled visit. The decedent was elderly and infirm and, although the physician suggested that his nurse assist the decedent, he never ordered the nurse to do so. The physician knew that the decedent tended to lose her balance when her eyes were closed, but he did not believe that the risk would be significant when she disrobed. The decision by a medical professional to allow a patient to engage in a routine activity, dressing and undressing, in which there is a potential risk of injury, i.e. losing balance and falling, and involving some assessment of the patient's condition at the time involves the exercise of a medical judgment. Levett v. Etkind, supra, 158 Conn. 573. The mere characterization of an activity as routine does not exclude that activity from the realm of medical judgment. Thus, the fact that a transfer may be considered routine is not dispositive. After reviewing the facts, the Court in Levett concluded that "the plaintiff alleged in her complaint and offered proof that the decedent was in the defendant's office as a patient of the defendant. This was admitted by the defendant in his answer and was included in his claims of proof. There can be no doubt therefore that the relationship of physician and patient existed. The defendant had been the decedent's family physician since 1944. The determination whether the decedent needed help in disrobing and, in the event she should refuse such help, what course of conduct to pursue called for a medical judgment on the part of the physician predicated on his knowledge of her physical and mental condition on that day. The duty of the defendant in his capacity as a physician was to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence in treating the plaintiff as a patient." Id.