Margaret Brazier
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Medical litigation
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Chapter 5 looks at medical litigation. Clinical negligence litigation often gives rise to acrimony between lawyers and doctors. Doctors regularly predict a ‘malpractice crisis’. Patients complain that the systems for redressing harm caused by medical negligence are inadequate. Chapter 5 shows that these concerns are not new. As J B Post noted, the ‘medieval medical practitioner, like his fellows of every age, was vulnerable to accusations of negligence’. The fundamental principles relating to liability for medical negligence are seen to have deep roots. By way of illustration, a number of cases stretching back to 1329 are examined. It will be seen that at least before the end of the nineteenth century there is little evidence of judicial deference to medical opinion. The surgeon treating human patients was treated no differently to the farrier (horse doctor). Such expert evidence from medical practitioners as was available was accorded no special consideration, as was to be the case in the Bolam era. Chapter 5 explores the impact of developments in ‘scientific’ medicine, contemporaneous developments in the general law relating to expert testimony and the influence of the Medical Act 1858.

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