Medicolegal liability in pathology: an international perspective

Document Type



Pathology and Microbiology


An inevitable outcome of modern Medicine in any country is that some patients will experience adverse events, some of which would have been preventable. Different nations have developed various approaches to such cases; their legal efficacies are probably dissimilar and dependent on a number of disparate variables. An international “snapshot” of the results of the interacting forces can be obtained by asking physicians in several countries how they view selected subjective facets of their tort systems. In the U.S., many physicians view the structure of malpractice torts as unfair, and that belief is shared by at least some pathologists. The American Medical Association has declared that a multiregional malpractice “crisis” exists which raises medical costs and threatens access to care. Furthermore, malpractice tort decisions are often flawed scientifically because lay jurors and judges cannot properly evaluate the quality of “expert” testimony given by adversarial witnesses. Despite these factors, there has been little effort to investigate the views of pathologists on malpractice actions outside the U.S. In this paper, the authors have collected the responses of an international group of pathologists to a questionnaire on that topic. The respondents practice in academic centers in 15 countries outside the U.S. As expected, a range of views was represented, with some pathologists reporting that malpractice litigation was uncommon and others noting a worrisome trend toward its growth. Interestingly, so-called “defensive medicine” was found to be relatively common in pathology in many countries.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Seminars in Diagnostic Pathology