Pate v. Threlkel
Florida. District Court of Appeal
Southern Reporter, 2d Series 1994; 640: 183-186
The Florida District Court of Appeal for the First District held that a physician has no duty to the children of a patient with a genetic disease to warn the patient that the disease is inherited so that the children can be tested and treated if need be. Dr. Threlkel had operated on the mother of Heidi Pate for medullary thyroid cancer three years before Pate's own medullary thyroid cancer was diagnosed and treated. Because Pate was not his patient and did not fit within any exception to the requirement that there be a physician patient relationship, the doctor owed no legal duty to her. The court distinguished this case from cases that involve the transmission of infectious or contagious disease through close contact, and from cases that involve the transmission of genetic disease due to the failure to diagnose it or to disclose the risk of it and thus prevent the birth of a genetically impaired child. In those cases a duty to warn does extend to family members.
Date of Decision: 1 August 1994
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