California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

509. Abandonment of Patient

[Name of plaintiff] claims [name of defendant] was negligent because [he/she] did not give [name of patient] enough notice before withdrawing from the case. To succeed, [name of plaintiff] must prove both of the following:

1. That [name of defendant] withdrew from [name of patient]’s care and treatment; and

2. That [name of defendant] did not provide sufficient notice for [name of patient] to obtain another medical practitioner.

However, [name of defendant] was not negligent if [he/she] proves that [name of patient] consented to the withdrawal or declined further medical care.

New September 2003

Sources and Authority

  • As a general proposition, “a physician who abandons a patient may do so ‘only . . . after due notice, and an ample opportunity afforded to secure the presence of other medical attendance.’ [Citation.]” (Payton v. Weaver (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 38, 45 [182 Cal.Rptr. 225].)
  • “A physician cannot just walk away from a patient after accepting the patient for treatment… In the absence of the patient’s consent, the physician must notify the patient he is withdrawing and allow ample opportunity to secure the presence of another physician.” (Hongsathavij v. Queen of Angels/Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (1998) 62 Cal.App.4th 1123, 1138 [73 Cal.Rptr.2d 695].)
  • “When a competent, informed adult directs the withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment, even at the risk of hastening or causing death, medical professionals who respect that determination will not incur criminal or civil liability: the patient’s decision discharges the physician’s duty.” (Thor v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 725, 743 [21 Cal.Rptr.2d 357, 855 P.2d 375].)

Secondary Sources

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) § 9.8

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 31, Liability of Physicians and Other Medical Practitioners, § 31.42 (Matthew Bender)