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Patient redress in clinical negligence cases: an uneven playing field

06 July 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 13


Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses several reports relating to patient compensation for clinical negligence

When the general media reports on patients receiving compensation awards for clinical negligence in the NHS, the banner headline can often read something like: ‘Patient wins compensation’. Behind these headlines lies an interesting perception, and perhaps even a true one. We take part in a contest, for want of a better word, when we try to obtain compensation in the courts. Court proceedings take place in an adversarial setting and the burden of proof is on the claimant to prove their case, on the balance of probabilities. The defendant hospital or clinician defends the legal action. In a way, using common sense language and taking account of the nature of adversarial court proceedings, the patient has indeed ‘won’.

A more rounded view is that the patient has not won anything; they are receiving just compensation for harm caused by the negligence of those who were meant to care for them. They have a moral and legal right to sue for being harmed and are being compensated for such.

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