Essay on Helling V. Carey

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1. Introduction Rarely any physician intends to harm patients when he or she provides treatment to them. Patients see physicians and specialists in full faith that they will get help with a condition. What complicates the patient-doctor relationship is that the outcome of each patient’s treatment is different because of individual health conditions and the course of treatment chosen by the doctor. Problems arise when a patient is not satisfied with care provided by the doctor or in extreme cases when a patient dies. Since most of the time it is hard to clearly determine whether the outcome was solely a result of the course of treatment chosen by the doctor or whether other factors played a role too, quite often patients take their…show more content…
Mrs. Helling filed a lawsuit against her ophthalmologist but during the trial the court ruled in favor of the defendants arguing that in ophthalmology it was not a standard of profession to perform routine glaucoma tests in patients under forty years of age. It is important to note here that the standards of the profession did require performing pressure tests if the patient’s complaints and symptoms indicated that the patient may be suffering from glaucoma. The defendants’ argument was that the test was given thirty days after the patients first complained of visual field problems. The jury decided in favor of the defendants and the court ruled accordingly. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision at which point the plaintiff petitioned for a review of the case. On appeal the Supreme Court of Washington reversed the judgment and ruled for the plaintiff stating that the defendants were negligent in not having administered the test at a time when the disease could have been prevented (LexisNexis, Helling v. Carey). The court’s decision was largely based on the argument that the test was simple and inexpensive and should have been administered considering the severity of the injury that resulted from the failure to give it. As suggested by Meltzer in the New England Law Review, two explanations to the decision in Helling are possible. First, that the court intended to abrogate the privilege of the

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