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The Criminal Justice System and Health Care$
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Charles A. Erin and Suzanne Ost

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199228294

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199228294.001.0001

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When Are Errors a Crime?—Lessons from New Zealand

When Are Errors a Crime?—Lessons from New Zealand

(p.67) 5 When Are Errors a Crime?—Lessons from New Zealand
The Criminal Justice System and Health Care

Alan Forbes Merry

Oxford University Press

Doctors' errors contribute to harm (iatrogenic harm) caused by healthcare. This chapter considers the appropriate response to the accidental harm of a patient and shows that the criminal law usually achieves only one element of this response (that is, it punishes the practitioner). It outlines the relevant legal developments in New Zealand and England with reference to selected cases, and reviews the establishment and objectives of the New Zealand Medical Law Reform Group. It considers arguments relevant to England today which led to a change in New Zealand's law. These arguments are based on considerations of social policy, justice, and the law informed by science. The chapter concludes that the situation which has developed over the last fifteen years in England is undesirable for patients and for society. Action is needed to reverse the trend towards using the criminal law as an instrument for regulating normal medical practice.

Keywords:   accidental harm, medical errors, iatrogenic harm, criminalization, health care

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