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The role of medical manslaughter must be reconsidered, says leading lawyer

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k1376 (Published 23 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k1376

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Re: The role of medical manslaughter must be reconsidered, says leading lawyer

The management of litigation risk is a daily task of the retired General Practitioner. The New Zealand system that Heather Bowmer describes would seem to be a welcome route to consider for the National Health Service.

An underwriter for a major medical defence organization in this country explained to me that each time a more complicated technology or care system is adopted into general clinical practice, the number and the cost of compensation and defence of complaints increases . The NHS has, I believe, an outstanding bill of £56 billion for compensation.

Defence against complaints and litigation has other costs. Doctors retir early. Doctors spend more time writing notes to defend themselves against litigation and less time to listen to the many symptoms concerns that patients would like them to. It is an unconscious litigation risk safety risk strategy to direct patients to casualty rather than to see them in General Practice in order reduce to litigation risk.

The law reserves the right to compensation but the consequences of the processes cause blockages to access to care and to progress in the provision of care.

The culture and business of medical litigation is easy to demonstrate: Do patients "deserve" compensation for health systems trysystem failures?

"We are a firm specialising in claims that involve medical negligence throughout England and Wales. Our large team has the experience and depth of knowledge to ensure success in the most complex of cases, earning you the compensation you deserve. We all place our health and wellbeing in the hands of medical professionals, whether it be our GP, hospital nurses or surgeons during routine and life-changing events.
At these points in your life, you should expect the highest level of care. Thankfully, our healthcare system usually delivers just that. But if something does go wrong, our medical negligence solicitors can help you get the compensation you or your loved one deserve."

As a continuing of transparency and patient access to their own medical records, I worry that the access will lead to increase litigation whilst reducing errors and omissions of care through better sharing of information and detection of errors and omissions in records by patients and carers.

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 April 2018
Richard Fitton
retired GP
The Old Vicarage, Crowden, Glossop, Derbyshire