Medical Battery

Medical Battery

Medical battery is defined as the intentional violation of a patient’s rights to direct his or her medical treatment. No injury or negligence is generally necessary for a finding of medical battery. Battery can involve an unauthorized touching of another person. Medical battery occurs when a patient is treated without informed consent. Most commonly, battery charges are alleged where there is a dispute over whether the patient agreed to treatment or refused treatment. The agreement or refusal of treatment can be made directly with the patient, through an advance directive (such as a Living Will), or through a health care proxy.

Laws governing medical battery vary from state to state in the same way that laws governing medical malpractice vary. The doctor may not mean to cause harm, but if the treatment is without consent then it is said to be imposed against the patient’s will.

One can see how this aligns with the criminal definition of battery, such as in the Revised Statues of Missouri (RSMo) 455.010, “purposely or knowingly causing physical harm to another with or without a deadly weapon.”

A “Vulnerable Person” (RSMo 630.005) in Missouri is “any person in the custody, care, or control of the Department of Mental Health that is receiving services from an operated, funded, licensed, or certified program.” Abusing a vulnerable person in Missouri is a Class A Misdemeanor, meaning that it carries a potential jail sentence of one year or less. However, any perpetrator has only to claim that the actions were done in good faith, or were provided within accepted standards of care and treatment, in order to avoid prosecution (RSMo 565.214).

Court decisions in Missouri provide precedence that to recover damages for battery, a plaintiff must plead and prove that a physician intended offensive bodily contact, or that a physician performed a medical procedure without valid consent.

“Consent to medical treatment may be manifested in a number of ways: the patient may expressly consent by oral agreement or by signing a formal written permission; or the patient may give implied authority by conduct, such as by voluntary submission to the operation or by failure to object to it.” (sc90835-47570) Thus, it is essentially the individual’s responsibility to assert their own informed consent or informed refusal to treatment.

Click here for more information about informed consent.

[Note: CCHR does not provide legal advice. The information here is for educational purposes only.]

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