Professional negligence: a duty of candid disclosure?

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6984.888 (Published 08 April 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:888
  1. Jean H Ritchie,
  2. Sally C Davies
  1. Queen's counsel 4 Paper Buildings, Temple, London EC4Y 7EX
  2. Consultant haematologist Department of Haematology, Central Middlesex Hospital, London NW10 7NS

    Doctors should explain in full when care has gone wrong

    Lawyers, whether barristers or solicitors, owe their clients a duty to disclose any conflict of interest that has arisen and to inform their clients that they should thereafter go to another lawyer for advice and help. In legal terms, a conflict of interest arises between a lawyer and client when their interests are no longer the same. There are many ways in which this may arise in practice—for example, if a lawyer has conducted a client's case negligently. Lawyers are in breach of their professional code of conduct if they fail to comply with these duties. Understandably none of us like to find ourselves in such a position; but no client should suffer from a lawyer's mistakes or ineptitude. We all, however, make mistakes. No sensible lawyer thinks that it can never happen to him or her.

    Why should the same rule not apply to doctors? Why should it not be part of doctors' ethical code to inform their patients if they have been negligent in their care …

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