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Medical litigation: who benefits?

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7295.1189 (Published 12 May 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1189
  1. Anthony Barton, doctor and lawyer
  1. specialising in pharmaceutical litigation. London

    The primary purpose of clinical negligence litigation is to obtain compensation for the victims, and thereby to provide a system of professional accountability and medical investigation. It ought to benefit patients; the reality is different—a state funded, largely self serving industry that is detrimental to patients and clinical practice.

    Legal aid provides the oxygen of medical litigation as most cases are publicly funded. Understanding legal aid is the key to understanding the politics and economics of medical litigation. It is intended to give access to justice for those who cannot afford legal services. However, most people are financially ineligible for legal aid but cannot afford legal services. Many lawyers are unwilling to use the conditional fee system while legal aid is available, so most people are denied access to justice.

    Legal aid diverts scarce funds for patient care to lawyers' pockets

    Legal aid is granted by the Legal Services Commission on the basis of advice from the applicant's lawyer. Such advice is not independent as the lawyer …

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