A Washington state appeals court has given Monique Messenger another chance to seek damages from late Dr. Bryan Whitemarsh’s estate who she had an affair with, upon finding that the relationship between the two may have led to medical malpractice…law360, Wash. Court Reboots Med Mal Suit Over Doctor-Patient Affair, Jack Queen, 2020

Dr. Bryan Whitemarsh died by suicide after Monique Messenger, who was being treated by the doctor for mental health issues, broke off an affair with him. The court held that the case law holding mental health providers liable for sexual relationships with patients applies to primary care doctors also when they provide mental health treatment, as was the case here.

The crucial analysis of the court took into account the phenomenon of “transference” under which the mental health patients develop feelings and emotions for their therapists. According to the court panel, when undergoing mental health treatment, if such transference occurs, or a mishandling of such transference takes place, causing injuries, then the doctor can be held liable. The court also referenced medical literatures that hold that sexual relationships are clearly harmful to patients.

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Kayur V. Patel, MD, MRO, FACP, FACPE, FACHE, FACEP
KayurVPatel@ExpertWitness.MD