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Medical malpractice is a legal cause of action that occurs when a medical or health care professional deviates from standards in his or her profession, thereby causing injury to a patient.


The law of medical malpracticeEdit

In common law jurisdictions, medical malpractice liability is normally based on the laws of negligence.[1]

Although the laws of medical malpractice differ significantly between nations, as a broad general rule liability follows when a health care practitioner does not show a fair, reasonable and competent degree of skill when providing medical care to a patient.[1] If a practitioner holds himself out as a specialist a higher degree of skill is required.[1] Jurisdictions have also been increasingly receptive to claims based on informed consent, raised by patients who allege that they were not adequately informed of the risks of medical procedures before agreeing to treatment.[1]

As laws vary by jurisdiction, the specific professionals who may be targeted by a medical malpractice action will vary depending upon where the action is filed. Among professionals that may be potentially liable under medical malpractice laws are,

  • Medical Practitioners - including physicians, surgeons, psychiatrists and dentists.
  • Nurses
  • Allied health professionals - including physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, podiatrists, occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists, pharmacists, optometrists, midwives, and medical radiation practitioners.[2][3][4]

Consequences of medical malpracticeEdit

Consequences for patients and doctors vary by country.

  • In Canada, all provinces except Quebec base medical malpractice liability on negligence, while Quebec follows a civil law system.[5]
  • Germany permits patients injured by medical negligence to bring a private action against the provider in contract, tort, or both.[6]
  • Sweden has implemented a no fault system for the compensation of people injured by medical treatment.[1]
  • In New Zealand, the Accident Compensation Corporation provides no-fault compensation for victims.
  • In the United States, tort lawsuits may be used to seek compensation for malpractice. Awards of compensation in the United States tend to be much larger than awards for similar injuries in other nations.[1]


Medico-legal action across multiple countries is more common against male than female doctors (odds ratio of 2.45).[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Marcus, Paul (1981). "Book Review of Medical Malpractice Law: A Comparative Law Study of Civil Responsibility Arising from Medical Care". Hastings International and Comparative Law Review: 235–243. Retrieved 12 June 2017. 
  2. ^ "Medical Liability". National Conference of State Legislatures. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2017. 
  3. ^ "NPDB Research Statistics". National Practitioner Data Bank. U.S. Health Services & Resources Administration. Retrieved 23 November 2017. 
  4. ^ Oliphant, Ken; Wright, Richard W. (2013). Medical Malpractice and Compensation in Global Perspective. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3110270234. 
  5. ^ Gilmour, Joan M. (1994). "Overview of Medical Malpractice Law in Canada" (PDF). Annals of Health Law. 3 (1): 179. Retrieved 12 June 2017. 
  6. ^ Stauch, Marc S. (June 2011). "Medical Malpractice and Compensation in Germany". 86 (3). Retrieved 12 June 2017. 
  7. ^ Unwin, Emily; Woolf, Katherine; Wadlow, Clare; Potts, Henry W. W.; Dacre, Jane (1 January 2015). "Sex differences in medico-legal action against doctors: a systematic review and meta-analysis". BMC Medicine. 13: 172. doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0413-5. PMC 4535538 . PMID 26268807. Retrieved 15 February 2017 – via BioMed Central.