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A Call For New Medical Law: My Thoughts

This morning, Radio 4 covered a debate about a new criminal offence for medical neglect. 

On the one side was Professor Margaret Brazier, renowned Professor in Medical law and ethics.  On the other, was Hamish Meldrum, current Chairman of the British Medical Association.

Disappointingly, it was a fairly tepid exchange with very little distance between them - neither really advocated such an offence. 

Brazier wants a focal shift onto moral culpability; whilst Meldrum calls for cultural change rather than sanctions after the event.  Two polar views perhaps would have made for more exciting listening. 

However, the concept of a criminal offence for medical negligence is a fascinating one. As a Claimant lawyer, I am all too frequently staggered by examples of appalling neglect in hospital.  I don't believe that a criminal offence will address this.  The standard of proof in a criminal case is beyond reasonable doubt, so I predict that there would be so few convictions that it couldn't bring about any meaningful change. 

A criminal offence would seem a knee jerk reaction in the wake of the mid Stafford scandal. However, debates such as these keep the spotlight on hospital standards.  If journalists continue lifting the lid on scandalously poor nursing care in hospitals across the country, hopefully a cultural shift and improved standards will follow.

Iona Millais is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch