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In a heart-breaking case, the Illinois Appellate Court has decided that a six-week-old newborn who died of bacterial meningitis had no patient-relationship with the hospital that advised her parents to give her Tylenol and call her doctor in the morning. Even though the child had been a patient at the hospital on four recent occasions, and her mother called seeking medical advice after being unable to reach her pediatrician, there was no such relationship and the hospital had no duty to the child for purposes of pursing a medical malpractice case. In rendering such a decision the court will consider whether the patient knowingly seeks a physician’s services and the physician knowingly accepts patient. The court viewed the fact that the hospital representative dispensed medical advice as deficient to prove that he knowingly accepted the child as a patient. This is simply not enough to create a physician-patient relationship. The result would have been different had her pediatrician’s office given the advice since they had an ongoing relationship. This case serves as a reminder that hospitals cannot substitute for the ongoing physician-patient relationship. If you have no access to a regular physician and you or a loved one needs medical care you need to seek care in person, you can’t phone it in.

Estate of Kundert v. Illinois Valley Community Hospital, No. 3-11-0007 (Ill. App. Ct. 3rd Dist., January 10, 2012).

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