Medical negligence and its importance in the Zambian Health System
Gondwe, Mabel Tamara
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Physicians historically have set their own standards of care and their conduct has usually been judged by comparing it to that of other physicians. "Ethical" canons or codes generally focused on professional etiquette and courtesy toward fellow physicians rather than on relationships with patients. The Hippocratic Oath was a notable exception, but its provisions were only ascribed to by a minority of Greek physicians. The law has become intimately involved in medical practice only in the 20th century. Until recently legal medicine, or forensic medicine, was a field devoted exclusively to the uses of medicine in the courtroom, primarily in two settings: forensic pathology and forensic psychiatry. The pathologist has traditionally been asked to determine and testify to the cause of death in cases of suspected homicide and to aspects of various injuries involving crimes such as assault and rape. Pathological testimony may also be required in civil cases involving, for example, occupational injury, negligent injury, automobile accidents, and paternity suits Since 1960 the legal climate has changed drastically. Civil lawsuits alleging medical malpractice have become a fact of professional life for many Western physicians. Issues formerly relegated to ethics, such as abortion and termination of treatment, also have become important civil rights issues in courtrooms across the world, as have issues of informed consent and patients' rights. Wide-ranging campaigns aimed at arresting the spread of infectious diseases, such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), have involved the legal system in issues of privacy, confidentiality, quarantine, and research using human subjects.
- Law