Medicolegal

What is medicolegal work?

The term “medicolegal” refers to both medicine and law. It can refer to two things:

  • The study and application of medical and scientific methods as evidence in a legal case, e.g. paternity, cause of death, rape, etc. This is also referred to as “legal medicine” or “medical jurisprudence”.
  • Medical law (the branch of law that governs proper medical practices).

The two should not be confused, although some legal cases can involve both, for instance, if a doctor is called as an expert witness for a malpractice case against another healthcare provider.

Legal medicine

There are many potential cases where medical and scientific expertise may be important in law. Examples can range from disputes over paternity to criminal proceedings. A doctor may be called to produce evidence about the case or appear in court as an expert witness.

As an expert witness, the doctor may use their scientific knowledge and expertise to give the court insight into the available evidence, which may prove valuable in ascertaining the truth about the events of the case.

Forensic medicine is one particular specialist field, which involves collecting and analysing samples from a criminal case to produce objective evidence for the court.

Medical law

Medical law sets out the proper code of conduct, the responsibilities of healthcare providers and the rights of patients. If a healthcare provider is suspected of having committed medical malpractice and caused unnecessary harm to a patient, they risk legal action from said patient. Criminal law also applies to the medical world to ensure that healthcare provides do not engage in criminal activity in their practice.
 

What is clinical negligence?

Clinical negligence, also known as medical negligence is when a patient is injured as a result of negligent medical treatment. In such cases, patients can seek compensation for this. Examples of clinical negligence may be:

  • if a patient is diagnosed incorrectly
  • if they are given the wrong medication for an inappropriate length of time
  • if a mistake was made during a medical procedure
  • if a patient is not informed correctly of the risks of a certain treatment
  • if a patient didn't give their informed consent prior to treatment

Clinical negligence must be proven, with certain criteria that must be met and displayed in order for a compensation claim to be made.

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