Hospitals Can Be Sued for Battery When Patients Say ‘Stop’

A patient who asks a clinician to stop a procedure and it’s feasible to do so can sue for battery if medical staff continue with the treatment, according to Law360, which cites an opinion from a Massachusetts appeals court.

The opinion was issued in a case against Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The family of a terminal cancer patient sued the hospital for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, alleging X-ray technologists continued an exam after the patient asked them to stop.

The Massachusetts Superior Court ruled in favor of the hospital and other named defendants, and the plaintiffs appealed. On Feb. 11, the appeals court held that a patient saying “stop” is enough to withdraw consent and give rise to a battery claim.

“We now hold that if a patient unambiguously withdraws consent after medical treatment has begun, and if it is medically feasible to discontinue treatment, continued treatment following such a withdrawal may give rise to a medical battery claim,” states the opinion.

The appeals court remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings.

“Whether [the patient] said, ‘stop,’ whether the technologists stopped the exam prior to completion, and whether they could have stopped sooner than they did are genuine issues of material fact which must be determined by the trier of fact. Accordingly, we reverse so much of the summary judgment on count one that alleges battery under the theory of withdrawn consent,” the appeals court stated.