Kennedy v. Parrott – Case Brief
Kennedy v. Parrott, 243 N.C. 355, 90 S.E.2d 754 (N.C. 1956).
Facts: Phoebe Kennedy (P) arranged for appendicitis surgery to be performed by Dr. Fountain Parrott (D). During the operation, Parrott discovered enlarged cysts on Kennedy’s left ovary. Believing that they were potentially harmful, Dr. Parrott treated the cysts by puncturing them. After the operation, Kennedy developed phlebitis in her leg and sued for battery, claiming that she had not consented to the treatment of the cysts.
P testified at trial that D told her that while he was puncturing the cysts that he had cut a blood vessel and that caused the phlebitis. D denied the statement and produced expert witnesses who testified that phlebitis is often a post-operative or post-pregnancy complication that is caused by a combination of the anesthesia, the shock of the operation, and confinement to bed.
At the conclusion of testimony the court granted D’s motion for a directed verdict and P appealed.
Issue: When a patient is incapable of giving consent may a doctor use his sound professional judgment to extend the scope of an operation?
Holding and Rule: Yes. If a patient is incapable of giving consent a doctor may use his sound professional judgment to extend the scope of an operation.
When one has voluntarily submitted himself to a physician or surgeon for diagnosis and treatment of an ailment, it will be presumed that what the doctor did was authorized either expressly or by implication. D saw the cysts and knew they would continue to grow until large enough to hold several quarts of liquid and become dangerous. P alleged that D’s liability lie in acting without authorization, not because he exercised bad judgment. The expert witness testified that D used sound medical judgment.