After a man lost his second and last remaining testicle, the Austrian Supreme Court clarified the possible scenarios about which doctors need to inform their patients.
Ten years ago the plaintiff's first testicle was removed due to chronic testicular inflammation. The man visited the hospital because of a suspected carcinoma on his remaining testicle.
The doctors told him that the testicle would first be scrutinized during the intraoperative examination and that a quick-cut procedure called "frozen section process" as well as a biopsy would be performed. He was further informed that if the tumor proved to be malignant, the testicle would be removed during the process. However, nobody told the patient that the first result of this frozen section process is often wrong and not 100% safe.
In this case, the tumor was classified as malignant on the basis of the initial findings (and the testicle was removed), but after the end result, it turned out that the tumor was benign and that the patient's last testicle was removed unnecessarily. From a medical point of view, this method is currently the best procedure available, despite its potential inaccuracy. If the testicle would not have been removed immediately, there is a potential risk of the cancer spreading.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the action on the grounds that the patient's well-being has priority vis-à-vis the patient's right of self-determination. This is why the procedure is currently the only adequate alternative. The Court of Appeal did not find the medical doctors at fault.
The Supreme Court disagreed and granted the patient's claim. The Supreme Court ruled that, with regard to the question of the scope of a doctor's duty to inform the patient, the patient's right of self-determination is not subordinate to the patient's well-being.
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