Clicky

/

Medicine, patients, and the law

The title gives something away about the orientation of this book, but don’t let this put you off if you think you might take offence. The authors are quick to point out that the Hippocratic oath enjoined doctors to foremost look after their teachers and brethren. Doctors, they continue, have perennially sought to regulate their own conduct, and the involvement of philosophers, priests and lawyers in the discussion of medical ethics and law relatively late in the history of medicine. Medical readers should not be put off by this slightly hostile angle. After all, medical law has developed the way it has because of the manifold manifest harms generated by negligence and malpractice, aided by a historic power differential between doctors and most patients, and latterly between patients and healthcare industries.

…medical law has developed the way it has because of the manifold manifest harms generated by negligence and malpractice, aided by a historic power differential between doctors and most patients, and latterly between patients and healthcare industries.

This book puts the patient at the centre of an accessible and engaging text focussing on medical law in the UK with some discussion of professionalism and ethics. It encompasses both parliamentary legislation and key guidance on the how laws are to be applied. It naturally examines case law, where legislation and previous legal decisions are applied by courts to the facts of cases and interpreted by Judges. It also takes in quasi-law in the form of key regulatory guidance by the General Medical Council (GMC), and the questions explored by the book have real and practical application. For example, I read (p.120) that the GMC say that a GP may (not must) alert a wife to the fact that her husband is HIV-positive. By contrast, the mere fact of a GP being HIV positive is not (legally-speaking) a matter of public interest, because the risk to patients is negligible. Something would need to change that risk in order warrant a public interest disclosure. I also read that doctors have a special positive duty to confidentially that is not the same as that of other ‘ordinary’ citizens, something those of us writing memoirs should bear in mind.

…a good critical sourcebook on the law for GP trainers and trainees looking to flesh out a case-based discussion or tutorial, as well as for the GP looking for reading in response to a patient unmet need (PUN) and/or doctor’s educational need (DEN).

I was drawn to the section on overtired, overworked doctors (p.231). During the first waves of COVID-19, many doctors at all levels were working long hours and outside of their usual areas of practice. Naturally there was concern that mistakes would happen and that doctors would be liable for those mistakes. There is no automatic immunity for mistakes made when overworked or overtired, but judges, we are told, do take system failings into account. Readers may choose to reflect on this when asked to go the extra mile. Consider, for example, whether you are fit to do so.

As a GP, I was also drawn to the section on pre-conception advice, having co-authored a commentary on the Toombes v Mitchell (2021) case.1 I was delighted to find the case referred to (as texts go it is impressively up to date in its seventh edition), even if the commentary was not reassuring. It is sobering to note that decades after inadequate advice, a disabled adult born as a result of that advice can sue a GP in negligence on behalf of their mother who has been harmed in the process of giving birth to and having to care for a disabled child resulting from the negligent advice. Decades later, the testimony regarding advice given may be assumed to be clearer in the mind of the mother than the GP.  So I guess we need to a) give good advice and b) document that we have done so.

The portable and concise text is eminently searchable for focussed reading. It seeks to hold clinicians and medical institutions to account. This makes it a good critical sourcebook on the law for GP trainers and trainees looking to flesh out a case-based discussion or tutorial, as well as for the GP looking for reading in response to a patient unmet need (PUN) and/or doctor’s educational need (DEN).

Featured book: Brazier M, Cave E and Heywood R, Medicine, patients and the law, Manchester University Press, Published June 2023, 696 pages, paperback, ISBN 978-1-5261-5717-1, £39.50

Reference

  1. Papanikitas A, Spicer J, Hayhoe B. “Wrongful conception” ruling against UK general practitioner. BMJ. 2022 Jan 14;376:o79. doi: 10.1136/bmj.o79. PMID: 35031556.

 

Featured image by Andrew Papanikitas, June 2024

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Previous Story

Medical Schools in Difficulty: supporting medical education amidst conflict

Next Story

Post Heart Attack Review (poem)

Latest from Book review

Normal Schmormal

This book would resonate with parents of neurodiverse children and help them feel less alone, but

0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x
Skip to toolbar