What was Dr. Palmer’s Duty to Treat Dr. Strange?

Dr. Christine Palmer in Doctor Strange found herself having to treat an injured Dr. Strange in an homage to The Oath. Just what is a doctor’s duty to treat an injured person who enters an emergency room in New York?

Pursuant to Federal law, if someone goes to an emergency room and requests treatment of a medical condition, the hospital must first determine an emergency medical condition exists. 42 U.S.C.S. § 1395dd(a). If an emergency medical condition exists, the hospital must either treat the medical condition to stabilize the emergency or transfer the patient to another medical facility. 42 U.S.C.S. § 1395dd(b)(1)(A) and (B).

Dr. Strange did not enter Metro-General Hospital through mortal means such as an ambulance, but a sling ring. Supernatural portals to an emergency room are irrelevant to the fact Strange entered the emergency room with a medical condition. There was no question a medical condition existed, because Dr. Strange had been stabbed with a mystical weapon. While there is an argument that a magical injury would be beyond the facilities at Metro-General, treating a stab wound should be standard for any emergency room in the United States.

The next issue is whether Dr. Palmer had a physician-patient relationship with Stephen Strange. The test is whether a physician had rendered professional services that had been accepted by another for medical or surgical treatment. See, Hanrahan v. Good Samaritan Hosp. Med. Ctr., 2013 NY Slip Op 33418(U), ¶ 3 (Sup. Ct.). This is a factual issue for a jury. Quirk v. Zuckerman, 765 N.Y.S.2d 440, 442-43 (Sup. Ct. 2003) citing Wienk-Evans v North Shore Univ. Hosp. at Glen Cove, 702 N.Y.S.2d 917 [2000].

The facts favor a finding that there was a physician-patient relationship. First, Dr. Strange entered the hospital via his sling ring. Second, Dr. Strange called for Dr. Palmer. Third, Dr. Palmer found Dr. Strange injured and choose to render medical treatment to Dr. Strange. As such, a jury could find Dr. Palmer had a physician-patient relationship with Strange.

Dr. Palmer owed Dr. Strange a duty to act as a “reasonably prudent doctor.” See, Masik v. Lutheran Med. Ctr., 2011 NY Slip Op 34163(U), ¶¶ 5-6 (Sup. Ct.), citing Nestorowich v Ricotta, 97 NY2d 393, 398. Conducting medical procedures on a patient with a mystical stab wound, who is also providing medical advice while battling his attacker on the astral plane, would definitely not be in the Physician’s Desk Reference. While turning up a defibrillator would not be something a “reasonably prudent doctor” would do, there is no expert testimony for doctors having a patient fight an astral attacker during treatment.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.