Morrison v. MacNamara

Summary of Morrison v. MacNamara, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, 1979, 407 A.2d 555

Procedural History: Appellant Morrison brought suit against a Washington DC area laboratory for medical malpractice. Appellees argued that the laboratory owed only the duty to adhere to that standard of medical care recognized in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. The trial court agreed with appellees.

Facts: Appellant went to a laboratory for a urethral smear test, for a urinary tract infection. The test was administered while Appellant was standing. Appellant had an adverse reaction to the test, fainted, and struck his head on a metal stand and on the floor, causing permanent loss of his senses of smell and taste, among other injuries

Issue: Whether laboratory was under a duty to adhere to nationally accepted standards for administering the urethral smear test.

Rule: In medical malpractice, a term referring to ordinary negligence concepts in the area of medical diagnosis, treatment, and the like, the duty of care is generally formulated as that degree of reasonable care and skill expected of members of the medical profession under the same or similar circumstances. The locality rule states that the conduct of members of the medical profession is to be measure solely by the standard of conduct expected of other member of the medical profession in the same locality or the same community.

Analysis: Medical laboratories are often staffed and operated by doctors who undergo the same rigorous training as other physicians. The opportunities for keeping abreast of medical advances that are available to doctors are equally available to clinical laboratories. Indeed medical laboratories are often an integral part of a hospital. Moreover, clinical laboratories generally conduct many of the routine tests that would normally be performed by physicians and hospitals. Accordingly, they owe similar duties in their care and treatment of patients. The court holds that at least as to board certified physicians, hospitals, medical laboratories, and other health care providers, the standard of care is to be measured by the national standard.

Holding: Yes. Reversed.

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