PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DOCTOR IN CASE OF ERROR
PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DOCTOR IN CASE OF ERROR

These are not all the errors of the doctor which involve his responsibility. The doctor will be responsible if his faulty error causes damage.

 DOCTOR’S OBLIGATION OF MEANS

According to the law, the doctor is not obliged to guarantee the expected result, that is to say the cure of an illness.

Rather, physicians should take all possible and reasonable means to achieve this goal. This is why the doctor is usually only bound to an obligation called “obligation of means”.

The doctor’s conduct is therefore judged not on the presence or absence of a specific result, but rather on his behavior in the circumstances.

However, in certain circumstances, the doctor is bound by an obligation of concrete results called “obligation of results”. For example, he must operate on the patient in the right place (operate on the left leg and not the right) and respect his duty of professional secrecy.

 TYPES OF DOCTOR ERRORS

Medicine is not an exact science and is an area in constant development. Consequently, the doctor’s responsibility will not be automatically engaged if his diagnosis is wrong or the surgery he performs is ineffective if he has respected accepted medical rules.

Indeed, it is not all the errors made by the doctor that will engage his responsibility.

It must always be assessed whether the physician behaved according to the criterion of a reasonably prudent, diligent and competent physician placed in the same circumstances. When the court assesses whether a doctor has committed a fault, it must determine whether, in the circumstances, the doctor’s conduct was serious and reasonable. The judge will assess whether another doctor in similar circumstances would have done the same.

It is therefore necessary to assess the error made on a case-by-case basis, to determine whether it is a fault generating responsibility. If the physician has acted in accordance with recognized good medical practice, his error will not be faulty and he will not be held responsible. Otherwise, his error will be at fault and he will be responsible for damage caused by his fault.

For example, in order to make a diagnosis according to good practice, the doctor must: use the methods which are commonly accepted, carry out a physical examination in accordance with good practice, request the appropriate consultations, prescribe the examinations and tests required, interpret correctly the data collected, have their evaluation checked by the appropriate tests, check their diagnosis and, in case of doubt, consult a colleague. He must also communicate his diagnosis to the patient in a timely manner and warn him if he turns out to be wrong.

LIABILITY OF THE PHYSICIAN

The doctor may be held responsible if he makes a faulty error and if the patient proves that he suffered damage because of the doctor’s fault.

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