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Doctors in law

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 10 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1589
  1. Luisa Dillner

    I am still haunted by the first circumcision that I did. When my handiwork was revealed to me in outpatients—the tissues no longer seemed to line up—I was horrified. Had the patient taken me to court I would have been unable to defend myself. Or so I thought. After I recently attended a seminar for doctors who provide expert evidence, the courtroom seems a murkier place. It has less to do with truth and justice and rather more to do with technique. Watching doctors take part in a simulated medical negligence case organised by the BMJ and Professional Solutions and Services Ltd I understood that a decent barrister can make most doctors look incompetent.

    The first case—sent to us in advance to read before the seminar—seemed, to me at least, a clear case of negligence by obstetricians. A young man (the plaintiff) had suffered brain damage after a traumatic delivery in 1969. His mother, who had a history of miscarriages, had had her labour induced on 2 August. The baby was not born until four days later. He was delivered by a junior doctor using a combination of ventouse (applied for over 35 minutes although the cervix was not fully dilated and the head was high) and forceps. His condition at birth was poor and it became obvious that he had suffered brain damage. …

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