Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Medicolegal audit in the West Midlands region: analysis of 100 cases.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 12 December 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:1533
  1. C Hawkins,
  2. I Paterson
  1. Postgraduate Medical Centre, Birmingham.


    One hundred medicolegal cases were analysed to obtain quantitative data about diagnoses and the causes of litigation that affect hospital doctors in the National Health Service. Sixteen actions concerned minor problems that are an unavoidable risk of treatment, and 39 were due to natural causes. In other cases it was debatable whether a medical accident or negligence was responsible. At the end of three years 73 actions had been withdrawn, 12 settled out of court, and one lost in court by the plaintiff, and 14 were pending. Of these 14, nine were likely to reach court on charges of negligence. Contributory causes were failure of communication in 27 and matters connected with the patient's attitude or personality in 20. Because much time and money are spent on cases that should never have started a doctor should sit on the legal aid panel to give advice for medical cases. Also, solicitors should obtain an independent medical opinion when a complaint is first received from a patient. Consent forms should be more informative and give details of what can reasonably be expected from treatment and its possible risks.