R Blake Brown, ‘Canada’s First Malpractice Crisis: Medical Negligence in the Late Nineteenth Century’

This article describes and explains the first Canadian medical malpractice crisis. While malpractice had emerged as a prominent legal issue in the United States by the mid nineteenth century, Canadian doctors first began to express concerns with a growth in malpractice litigation in the late nineteenth century. Physicians claimed that lawsuits damaged reputations and forced them to spend lavishly on defending themselves. Doctors blamed lawyers for drumming up spurious lawsuits and argued that ignorant or malicious jurors tended to side with plaintiffs. Evidence, however, points to additional factors that contributed to litigation. Medical professionals in rural areas sometimes avoided lengthy travel, leading to allegations of malpractice when patient health declined despite calls for attendance. As the number of doctors increased in Canada, some physicians may have encouraged negligence suits against their competitors. Late nineteenth-century claims to professionalism also played a role. Patients came to expect better outcomes, especially in orthopedics, which dominated most of the reported instances of malpractice in the period.

R Blake Brown, Canada’s First Malpractice Crisis: Medical Negligence in the Late Nineteenth Century, Osgoode Hall Law Journal 54.3 (2017): 777-804.

First posted 2017-09-06 06:32:10

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