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Professional Clinical Negligence Notes

GDL Law Notes > GDL Tort Law Notes

Updates Available  

A more recent version of these Professional Clinical Negligence notes – written by Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students – is available here.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our GDL Tort Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

Revision: Tort

[PROFESSIONAL AND CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE]

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Professional negligence means negligence within the professional sphere

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Main difference to ordinary negligence is establishing whether a particular professional duty of care has been breached

Functions:

1. Make professionals more accountable

2. Threat of litigation ensures that professions maintain high standards of practice

3. Explanations when procedures go wrong

4. Compensation to wronged parties

5. Degree of retribution Growth in professional negligence claims:

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Change in relationship btw professional and client - particularly within clinical sphere - scepticism and a willingness to challenge professionals o

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E.g. childbirth particularly high - relatively dangerous and people have high expectations

Kennedy & Grubb - Principles of Medical Law:

1. Increased expectation of patients

2. Development in drugs/science

3. Increased knowledge of rights/law

4. Increased assistance with claims

5. Increased pressure on doctors

6. Influence from abroad (US)

The Duty of Care

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Professional duty : White v Jones o

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Duty owed by a solicitor to his/her clients - White v Jones; Ross v Caunters

Duty owed by a doctor to a patient: Cassidy v Minister of Health; R v Bateman - Lord Hewitt - 'if he accepts the responsibility and undertakes the treatment and the patient submits to his discretion

Revision: Tort

[PROFESSIONAL AND CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE]
and treatment accordingly, he owes a duty to the patient to use diligence, care, knowledge, skill and caution in administering the treatment'

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Don't assume doctor always owes duty of care - e.g. where a doctor provides advice for occupational health report - no direct doctor-patient relationship and duty to prevent economic loss does not exist - Kapfunde v Abbey National plc (company doctor - duty was to the company)

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Emergencies:once responsibility is assumed and treatment has been undertaken, a duty of care is owed: Barnett v Chelsea & Kensington HMC

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Duty to assist:No duty to the world at large (Re F (Mental Patient: Sterilisation)) o

(Re F) also authority for the fact that doctors must act in the best interest of the patient: patient could not give consent to sterilisation but doctor not in breach when he went ahead as it was in the patient's best interestBut: GP's do owe duty of care to any patient on their list under statutory lawAlso there is an obligation to assist under the GMC's code of practice and there are legal disciplinary powers from parliament to enforce this

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Duty to prevent patients from harming themselves and or others and the rights of third parties: o

Clunis v Camden & Islington Health Authority: patient (C) had a mental disorder, was discharged from hospital and went on to murder somebody ; claim vs. the health authority for failing to provide appropriate care - but was not allowed to bring a claim arising from his own unlawful act

o

Goodwill v British Pregnancy Advisory Service: vasectomy patient told he didn't need to use contraception - 3 years later a woman fell pregnant with his child and sued for the cost of bringing up the daughter, reduced income etc. - there was no duty of care - lack of proximity - generally no duty to a third party

Revision: Tort

[PROFESSIONAL AND CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE]

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Duty to write clearly:Prendergast v Sam & Dee Ltd: doctor was found to be jointly liable alongside a pharmacist for the incorrect dispensing of a drug - doctor's handwriting could not be deciphered (apportionment - pharmacist was more to blame on the facts)

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Duty of Care on Hospitals/Health Authorities: o

Duty to provide the services of medical professionals with sufficient skill and experience

o

Wilsher v Essex and Griffiths v Kent Ambulance Service: failure to provide doctors or services of a sufficient level of competence could be regarded as a breach of the duty of care

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Bull v Devon AHA: catalogue of errors - mismanagement (not about lack of resources so within the jurisdiction of the court)

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Johnstone v Bloomsbury Health Authority: staff were overworked - breach by the health authority

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Duty of Care and the right to treatment: o

Clinical decisions as to treatment should be for medical professionals and not the courts

o

Courts cannot interfere with policy issues - allocation of resources: these should be left to the executive (limited resources and infinite wants)

o

R v Cambridge Health Authority ex p Child B (a minor): local health authority declined to continue experimental treatment on minor dying of leukaemia - cost of treatment was
PS75,000 - chances of success were between 10% and 20%: Bingham MR - would be unreasonable to impose an absolute duty on health authority to provide every treatment

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Wrongful life: o

McFarlane v Tayside Health Board - check lecture

Breach of duty of care

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