Personal Views

A transatlantic brush with the law

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 22 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:613
  1. Karen Cranfield, senior registrar in anaesthesia in London

    The letter dropped through the letter box on a wet day in October. Inside was a thick law suit from the United States, with my name and the name of my supervising staff anaesthetist in bold print. It stated that I had presented myself as a competent paediatric anaesthetist and had been negligent in my care of a 6 week old boy. My first reaction was disbelief, and then I relaxed as I read the details. I could remember the child but I had not been told that he had been unwell after the operation. I was satisfied that nothing untoward had occurred.

    It took a few days to contact the other anaesthetist concerned and he was reassuring. The child's parents had sued anyone who had had any contact with the child, including the surgeon, the paediatrician, the hospital, and the neurologist. I regretted not having retained my carbon copy of the anaesthetic record. I am always meticulous in filling in the regular observations, and so I was confident that the record would be complete if the case came to court.

    The law suit contained a letter from the plaintiff's attorney stating that I had to …

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