Duty of Care
Under Australian negligence law, a duty-of-care is an obligation to avoid causing harm and arises where harm is ‘reasonably foreseeable’ if care is not taken and where there’s a sufficient relationship of ‘closeness’.
A duty-of-care has been ruled as inherent in the patient / medical practitioner relationship and existing in all aspects of patient care, including: diagnosis, warnings regarding risks / side effects, administering treatment, and performance of medical procedures.
Medical Practitioners Who Have a Duty of Care
A duty of care obligation is not just for doctors. For medical negligence claims the following medical practitioners are deemed to owe a duty of care to patients: chiropractors, cosmetic surgeons, dentists, dieticians, midwives, nurses, optometrists, paramedics, pharmacists, physiotherapists, physicians, psychologists, speech pathologists, and more.
A Hospital’s Duty of Care
Where a hospital treats a patient in casualty or admits a patient, the hospital has a duty-of-care and is regarded as making an undertaking to the patient that it will take reasonable care to provide for all the patient’s medical needs. In medical negligence claims, a hospital is unable to avoid liability by saying it delegated its duty of care to a health professional. This duty of care for hospitals is the same irrespective of facilities, funding and level of staff.