Lege Artis Medicinae

[Medicus imperitus. The inception of physician liability in classical Roman law]

PÉTER Orsolya Márta1

APRIL 20, 2016

Lege Artis Medicinae - 2016;26(04)

[In an era where the number of medical liability suits is permanently increasing, it might be interesting - in Hungary as well -, and also useful to detect and analyse the roots of such liability in Continental/Euro­pean law. In classical Roman law - that also gives the basis for European ius commune - , we cannot encounter uniform and general norms governing medical liability. The reasons of such hiatus are inherent in the peculiar casuistic method of Roman law, as jurists focused on providing a proper solution for a specific case, and not on developing general and abstract behavioural norms. In addition to the foregoing, the legal status of physicians and their patients was heterogeneous: many doctors were foreign slaves who, if lucky, obtained freedom and Roman citizenship, or settled down in Rome as foreign citizens. The form of their professional liability was also determined by the legal status of their patients: if an untrained or careless physician tried to cure a slave owned by a Roman citizen and failed, the owner could sue the doctor for damaging his property. As far as free patients are concerned, we cannot formulate any unequivocal statements regarding medical liability and malpractice; however, the few available sources clearly prove that a physician who had wilfully caused harm to his free patient resulting in death was severely punished in ancient Rome.]

AFFILIATIONS

  1. Semmelweis Egyetem, Általános Orvostudományi Kar, Magatartástudományi Intézet

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