Moore v. Baker

989 F.2d 1129 (1993)

Quick Summary

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Judith Moore (plaintiff) sued Dr. Roy Baker (defendant) for not informing her about EDTA therapy as an alternative to carotid artery surgery, which left her severely disabled. The case centered on whether Dr. Baker adhered to Georgia’s informed consent law.

The district court granted summary judgment for Baker, stating EDTA therapy was not a recognized alternative treatment, and denied Moore’s attempt to amend her complaint. The appellate court affirmed these decisions, concluding that there was no duty to inform about EDTA therapy as it was not widely accepted by prudent physicians.

Facts of the Case

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Judith Moore (plaintiff) sought medical advice from Dr. Roy Baker (defendant), an employee of the Neurological Institute of Savannah, P.C., due to symptoms caused by a partial blockage in her left carotid artery. Dr. Baker recommended a carotid endarterectomy to remove the blockage. He informed Moore of the surgery’s risks but did not discuss EDTA therapy, an alternative treatment. Moore consented to and underwent the surgery, which initially seemed successful. However, complications arose, leading to permanent brain damage and severe disability for Moore.

Asserting that Dr. Baker had not fully informed her of treatment options, specifically the availability of EDTA therapy, Moore filed a lawsuit on the last day within the statute of limitations. She claimed Dr. Baker’s omission violated Georgia’s informed consent law. During the proceedings, Moore sought to amend her complaint to include allegations of negligence during and after the surgery, which the district court initially granted but then denied after granting summary judgment for Dr. Baker on the informed consent issue.

Procedural Posture and History

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  1. Moore sues Baker for violating Georgia’s informed consent law by not informing her about EDTA therapy as an alternative to surgery.
  2. The suit is filed on the final day allowed by Georgia’s statute of limitations.
  3. Baker files for summary judgment on the consent issue, citing a signed consent form by Moore.
  4. Moore moves to amend her complaint to include claims of negligence.
  5. The district court grants summary judgment in favor of Baker, finding EDTA therapy not a recognized alternative, and denies Moore’s motion to amend her complaint.
  6. Moore appeals the decisions to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

I.R.A.C. Format

Issue

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Whether Dr. Baker violated Georgia’s informed consent law by not informing Moore about EDTA therapy as an alternative treatment option and whether the district court erred in denying Moore’s motion to amend her complaint and in granting summary judgment in favor of Baker.

Rule of Law

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Georgia’s informed consent law requires physicians to inform patients about the risks associated with surgery and any practical alternatives that are generally recognized and accepted by reasonably prudent physicians.

Reasoning and Analysis

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The appellate court affirmed the district court’s decisions. It found that EDTA therapy was not a generally recognized or accepted alternative treatment within the medical community for Moore’s condition. Thus, Dr. Baker had no duty to inform Moore about it under Georgia law. The court also supported the district court’s refusal to allow Moore to amend her complaint because the proposed negligence claims did not relate back to the original complaint and were barred by the statute of limitations.

In assessing whether EDTA therapy was an accepted alternative, the court considered affidavits from medical professionals and positions taken by various medical associations. The evidence presented demonstrated a consensus against recognizing EDTA therapy as a viable alternative to carotid endarterectomy for treating coronary blockages.

Conclusion

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The Eleventh Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Dr. Baker and denied Moore’s motion to amend her complaint, finding no violation of Georgia’s informed consent law.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Physicians are required to inform patients only about generally recognized and accepted alternatives to surgery under Georgia’s informed consent law.
  2. An amendment to a complaint must relate back to the original pleading to avoid being barred by the statute of limitations.
  3. The medical community’s general acceptance of a treatment is crucial in determining a physician’s duty to inform under informed consent law.

Relevant FAQs of this case

What constitutes a 'generally recognized and accepted' treatment in medical informed consent cases?

To be ‘generally recognized and accepted,’ a medical treatment must have a consensus of support among reasonably prudent professionals in the field. This entails acknowledgment from reputable medical organizations, widespread use in clinical practice, and backing by scientific studies. Courts tend to rely on expert testimony and authoritative guidelines to assess the standard of care.

  • For example: A doctor recommending a novel chemotherapy regimen would need to demonstrate that this approach is supported by research and endorsed by oncology societies to meet the informed consent standards.

How does the statute of limitations affect the ability to amend a legal complaint?

The statute of limitations sets a time limit within which a claim can be brought, and an amendment can typically only be made if it relates back to the original claim filed within that timeframe. An amendment that introduces a new claim or changes the original one too substantially may not be permitted if it falls outside the statutory period.

  • For example: If a patient initially files for breach of contract against their physician within the legal timeframe but later seeks to add a medical malpractice claim after the statute has expired, the amendment might not be accepted unless it arises out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth in the original pleading.

In what scenarios is a physician exempt from disclosing alternative treatments under informed consent laws?

A physician might not have to disclose alternative treatments if they are considered experimental, not widely accepted within the professional community, or if they don’t align with the established standard of care for that particular condition.

  • For example: A surgeon isn’t obligated to inform a patient about an experimental heart procedure available abroad that hasn’t been approved by local health authorities or supported by major cardiology organizations.

References

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