Ethics - Vulnerabilities created by duties of doctors

From CambridgeNotes

  • Branches of law: civil law involves compensation (includes tort law to protect interests); criminal law is a matter for the state and usually involves punishment
  • Sources of law: common law based on precedence while statute law based on acts of parliament
  • GMC: provides "duties of doctor" and decides who is and isn’t fit to practise medicine (strike off register!); works alongside legal framework to regulate doctors

Negligence (a tort) – 3 requirements

  • Owed duty of care: note that outside the hospital duty of care only if doctor stops and helps
  • Breached standard of care: did the doctor fall below the "standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising and professing to have that special skill"; where the profession is divided the doctor is not negligent if he acts in accordance with a "responsible body of medical opinion, even if in the minority" (Bolam test)
  • Breach in care caused patient harm

Trespass to the person (civil and criminal)

  • Assault is threat of violence; battery is actual violence
  • Establishes that doctor can only touch patient with their consent, unless the patient lacks capacity to do so


  • After the Bristol heart case legislation was passed whereby poor practice could (and should) be reported without the "whistle blower" being reprimanded
  • Now clinical governance introduced, organisations rather than individuals may be responsible