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A mental health patient, Bolam, was given the advice to go through an electro convulsive therapy (ECT). In spite of the varied opinions regarding warning a client of the risk involved in the process at that time, Bolam was not warned of the risk of fracture, the use of relevant drugs and physical restraint necessary. As a result, he sustained fractured hip during this treatment and went ahead to claim for negligence.

The court later held that the treatment would be considered apt if the skill exercised is according to the accepted practice by a 'responsible body of medical men' skilled in that particular art. This precisely implies that if the defendant is a doctor, then the test of a reasonable man like a doctor would be substituted by that of another skilled doctor conducting the same practice in order to determine the defendant’s liability for medical negligence. This medical law case is famous for establishing a separate standard of test for medical negligence from that of a reasonable man test in other tort cases.

Medical law
is a branch of law concerned with the legal privileges and liabilities of both patients and medical care providers. The three key branches that medical law covers are confidentiality, criminal law, and negligence; however, it covers a myriad other legal branches. The Laws that fall under these three branches act as a base for both legal and disciplinary actions against medical professionals. These laws may even be used to confirm whether a medical practitioner acted in accordance with the law and in the manner expected of him.

Medical confidentiality law
is concerned with patient records that detail information about a patient’s health and treatment. This law decides about the people having the right to access the records, including the patient himself. It sets the extent to which patient records are kept confidential, when and how medical professionals should share information, and which sorts of situations constitute a breach of medical confidentiality law.

Medical confidentiality law
also covers patient’s consent to the issue of records. Different jurisdictions have different laws regarding when and how a patient’s consent may be given and hence to whom a patient’s records may be released. In a medical law case, a patient must give his consent for the sharing of his medical information no matter who requests it. Not even his lawyer, family members, or new doctor may access it without his consent.

The original source of a doctor’s duty to comply with medical confidentiality law is the Hippocratic Oath. Regarding medical confidentiality Hippocrates said:

Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not in connection with it, I see or hear in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.

The obligation of confidentiality spoken of here is not absolute; it is up to the doctor to decide what information ‘ought not to be spoken abroad.’ Another Oath of confidentiality is the Declaration of Geneva which says:

I will respect the secrets confided in me, even after the patient has died.’

Here, however, the obligation is absolute. These two sources of a doctor’s duty of confidentiality are though separate in extent yet draw attention to the relevance and criticality of respecting the confidentiality of patients.


There is still a lot left to know about this medical-legal aspect of your treatment. What exactly do you think you will do if you are caught in a medical-legal situation unaware of the laws and rights applicable to both the parties? Perturbed and panic stricken people often lose their reason and that can render further trouble. Therefore, ExpertsLand provides a platform where people ask questions with seers of law and get expert advice. ExpertsLand is a team of Experts who are devoted to the cause of guiding people through tough situations of their life and thereby providing legal advice at a nominal amount. They share the insights of critical laws and your rights through numerous follow up questions that you may ask. So why wait to connect to such sagacious experts? Register now with ExpertsLand and start shooting your questions.

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