Medical Errors: Legal and Ethical Responses

International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Vol. 81, pp. 109-114, 2003

6 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2006

See all articles by Bernard Dickens

Bernard Dickens

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Abstract

Liability to err is a human, often unavoidable, characteristic. Errors can be classified as skill-based, rule-based, knowledge-based and other errors, such as of judgment. In law, a key distinction is between negligent and non-negligent errors. To describe a mistake as an error of clinical judgment is legally ambiguous, since an error that a physician might have made when acting with ordinary care and the professional skill the physician claims, is not deemed negligent in law. If errors prejudice patients' recovery from treatment and/or future care, in physical or psychological ways, it is legally and ethically required that they be informed of them in appropriate time. Senior colleagues, facility administrators and others such as medical licensing authorities should be informed of serious forms of error, so that preventive education and strategies can be designed. Errors for which clinicians may be legally liable may originate in systemically defective institutional administration.

Keywords: Error, Medical error, Clinical judgment, Negligence, Non-negligent error, Iatrogenic injury, Disclosure of error

JEL Classification: I18, K19

Suggested Citation

Dickens, Bernard, Medical Errors: Legal and Ethical Responses. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Vol. 81, pp. 109-114, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=945681

Bernard Dickens (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
416-978-4849 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

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