BeyHealth Quarterly Journal (BHQJ) BHQJ 2018: 001:1 (May 2018) - Page 12

Medico-legal Medical Negligence & the Law Cheluchi Onyemelukwe LL.M, JSD Dr Cheluchi Onyemelukwe is Managing Partner at Health Ethics and Law Consulting and Executive Director, Centre for Health, Ethics, Law and Development (CHELD). “ The aim of medical negligence law is not to place medical practitioners on the defensive, but to ensure accountability, improve patient trust and ultimately enhance patient outcomes. 12 “Sure your attorney can be in the operating room during surgery, but we’ll have to give him anesthesia too.” I atrogenic harm is a matter of significant that exist in deploying this instrument as an concern in Nigeria and in many parts of effective lever for accountability throughout the the healthcare sector. world today, and appropriate application of the law of negligence is an important part of ensuring accountability through the legal system. Although of limited application over the years, due to a variety of socioeconomic and cultural factors, the law of medical negligence is by no means new to Nigeria. There are substantial examples of cases prosecuted through the Nigerian courts, dating as far back as the 1960s. With increasing patient awareness, the burgeoning use involvement of of social agencies media such as and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), there is an increasing likelihood of medical negligence law becoming a widely utilised tool for holding the medical profession, including doctors and allied health practitioners, to account. This article explores the evolution of medical negligence law in Nigeria and the challenges Medical Negligence and the Law in Nigeria Numerous accounts of harm caused to patients by the negligent conduct of members of the medical profession have been recorded over the years. Nigerian law provides for the offence of medical negligence within the criminal law and therefore allows for a health professional to be charged with the offence of gross negligence. Cases such as Akerele v R. (1941) illustrates that a doctor can be charged and convicted of acting illegally. The tort of negligence covers situations where medical personnel have acted without due care and caution and below the standard of skill expected of a medical professional and which has resulted in harm. Nigerian cases, from Igbokwe v University College Board of Management (1961) to more recent cases like Abi v CBN (2011), indicate that medical negligence as a civil matter is by no means new to our legal system. Several cases tried in the English court, such as the locus classicus – Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957), which established the standard for evaluating a doctor’s skill, allowing this to be adjudged by whether the conduct or omission of the doctor www.beyhealth.com | MAY 2018 | Issue 1