Doctors’ Liability To 3rd Parties

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Doctors’ Liability To 3rd Parties

Article 1 (Gilbar & Foster, 2015).

The liability towards third parties by clinicians has been a controversial topic in medical law for a while now. This paper discusses the issues involved by analyzing the first case tried in British law, where a patient’s daughter sued for negligence against clinicians in a hospital.
In the above case, the patient shot and killed his wife and was afterwards diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. HD is a mental condition that is hereditary with a 50% probability of being passed down to children (Tabrizi et al., 2009). The daughter of the patient sued the clinicians for not warning her of her father’s condition after she fell pregnant, claiming violation of her human rights and the psychiatric harm and expenses she and her child would have to undergo due to the disease. The claim was struck out by the judge who concluded that there was no doctor-patient association between patient’s daughter and the clinicians, a relationship which had been vital in deciding other cases prove a duty of care.
The article claims that the judge was wrong in his ruling drawing parallels in similar cases where courts found a legal duty on clinicians to divulge the adequate health information to relatives exposed to psychiatric or physical harm or prevents them from informed decision making. Additionally, the judge failed to acknowledge that clinician conflicts on duty are necessary in various clinical genetics situations where a one clinician is responsible for genetic counselling in the context where family members are not aware of the clinician’s involvement with the other relative. The authors invoke the Tort law and suggest it would be useful in correcting the imbalance discussed above by mandating a responsibility on the clinicians to the relatives in the case of any relevant genetic information. They further conclude that the courts should consider genomic medicine developments in their rulings and should consider policies that protect the rights of individuals in making informed choices and avoiding harm.


Gilbar, R., & Foster, C. (2015). DOCTORS’ LIABILITY TO THE PATIENT’S RELATIVES IN GENETIC MEDICINE. Medical Law Review, fwv037.

Tabrizi, S., Langbehn, D., Leavitt, B., Roos, R., Durr, A., & Craufurd, D. et al. (2009). Biological and clinical manifestations of Huntington’s disease in the longitudinal TRACK-HD study: cross-sectional analysis of baseline data. The Lancet Neurology8(9), 791-801.