Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Criminalisation of unintentional error

Reconciling patients’ need for compensation with doctors’ need for protection

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 15 April 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l1717
  1. Giuseppe Vetrugno, forensic pathologist and risk manager1,
  2. Federica Foti, forensic pathologist1,
  3. Angelico Spagnolo, forensic pathologist1,
  4. Fabio De-Giorgio, forensic pathologist2
  1. 1Risk Management Unit, Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli—Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy
  2. 2Institute of Public Health, Section of Legal Medicine, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy
  1. giuseppe.vetrugno{at}

Three days after Ameratunga and colleagues’ paper about the criminalisation of unintentional errors in healthcare was published1 another Boeing 737 Max crashed. Governments have grounded the Boeings and are studying them to identify corrective actions. No need for criminal justice—just a need to understand.

When unintentional medical errors cause adverse events, however, we question whether they were excusable. Nothing changed after The …

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