Debbie Milne | Partner and Solicitor Advocate

Primum non nocere – first, do no harm

The origins of this phrase are uncertain. Despite the maxim being in Latin, they are widely attributed to Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician more usually associated with the Hippocratic Oath. Had disgraced surgeon Mr Ian Paterson remembered this basic principle of the practice of medicine he may still have his liberty, hundreds of patients may have received the correct treatment and the NHS may have avoided having to use already limited funds in settlement of damages claims.

Thankfully, there are very few doctors who wilfully harm their patients. However, the practice of medicine is highly skilled and even the best of doctors can make mistakes or errors of judgement. Not all mistakes are negligent and not all negligence causes harm. Therefore, clinical negligence claims require the input of experienced solicitors and expert medical witnesses before a court will be persuaded that the high threshold set down in the Hunter v Hanley test has been satisfied.

First, we need to show that there was an accepted course of practice that ought to have been followed by the doctor. Then we need to show not only that the practice was deviated from but also that no competent doctor would have acted that way. Even if all of this is supported by expert evidence and accepted by the court we still need to show that the correct treatment would have altered the outcome.

In dealing with clinical negligence claims, solicitors advising patients, doctors, nurses, dentists, health boards, and other medical practitioners may know the questions they need answered but the answers to these questions invariably must come from the many highly skilled and knowledgeable medical expert witnesses whose role is to assist lawyers and ultimately to assist the court in determining when a mistake is more than just that – when it is negligence and when, even though unintended, this has resulted in harm.

If you consider clinical treatment, that you have received, has fallen short of the required standard and has resulted in loss and injury then please contact us online by clicking here or speak to a member of our specialist team on 0333 222 1855.

Debbie Milne

Debbie Milne

Personal Injury Team

“The best part of my job is achieving a result that makes the client happy. That might be getting a good result for an insurer, it might be recovering a sum in damages that makes a difference to a person’s life, it might even be simply achieving an acknowledgement that the other party was at fault.” 

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