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Law School Case Brief

Pauscher v. Iowa Methodist Med. Ctr. - 408 N.W.2d 355 (Iowa 1987)

Rule:

The professional rule recognizes the treating doctor's duty to disclose danger of which he has knowledge and the patient does not, but should have in order to determine whether to consent to the risk. The question whether that duty is satisfied is left to the medical profession.

Facts:

Plaintiff executor instituted a wrongful death action following the death of the decedent. Decedent entered the hospital to deliver her first child. On the day she was to leave the hospital, the decedent developed a fever, pain in her right side, and began to discharge large amounts of blood in her urine. One of the doctors, a urology specialist, ordered an intravenous pyelogram (IVP) to determine whether the decedent's urinary tract was obstructed. After the decedent developed significant chest pains the procedure was stopped and the decedent soon died. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of the defendant hospital and doctors. The plaintiff appealed.

Issue:

Does withholding information on the extremely remote risk of death constitute reasonable basis in deciding a wrongful death action?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court but on the basis that a jury could not reasonably conclude that the withheld information relating to the extremely remote risk of death would be material to a reasonable person in the decedent's circumstances or would have affected such a person's willingness to undergo the IVP. The court held that the patient rule was applicable in all informed consent cases, in both elective and nonelective medical procedures.

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