Brief Fact Summary. Safer (Plaintiff), the daughter of a man who died of colon cancer, was not warned by the doctor (Defendant) who treated her father that she was also at risk.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A physician’s duty is to warn the child of a patient of a genetic risk.
Thus, we emphasize that in any circumstances in which the physician has a duty to warn of a genetically transferable disease, that duty will be satisfied by warning the patient.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is a physician’s duty is to warn the child of a patient of a genetic risk?
Held. A physician’s duty is to warn the child of a patient of a genetic risk.Â Knowledge of a genetic risk is logically no different from knowledge of a risk of an infectious disease.Â As a matter of law, the same duty that exists to warn of the risk of infectious diseases should require a warning for genetic risks.Â Here, it was clear an increased risk of colon cancer existed for the Plaintiff.Â However, whether liability existed, and what damages are appropriate if so, are matters better decided at trial.Â Reversed.
Discussion. To say that a legal duty exists in theory and to prove the breach of such a duty are very different propositions.Â The difficulty in showing a duty to warn of genetic risks in part hinges on proving the heightened risk level.Â If the risks are not well known, it is an unfair standard to apply a high-level duty.