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Canterbury v. Spence

    Brief Fact Summary. Canterbury (Plaintiff) claimed that Spence (Defendant) was negligent in his failure to disclose the risks of a medical procedure.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The conduct of a prudent person in the same position as the patient must be considered when proving whether or not a patient would have declined medical treatment if the doctor had disclosed any related medical risk.

    Facts. Canterbury (Plaintiff) claimed that he would have rejected a certain medical procedure if he had known all of the possible risks that Defendant failed to disclose.

    Issue. Must the conduct of a prudent person in the same position as the patient be considered when proving whether or not a patient would have declined medical treatment if the doctor had disclosed any related medical risk?

    Held. [Judge not stated in casebook excerpt.]  Yes.  The conduct of a prudent person in the same position as the patient must be considered when proving whether or not a patient would have declined medical treatment if the doctor had disclosed any related medical risk.  The causality issue should be resolved on an objective basis.  Plaintiff's testimony must not be permitted to dominate the findings.  The reasonableness of Plaintiff's testimony must also be considered by the jury.

    Discussion. In this case, the court was concerned with the unfairness of the subjective patient test.  The risk to the patient must be relative to the patient in question.  But the court must consider what a reasonable patient under the same circumstances would have done.


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