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Avoiding easy mistakes: Five medicolegal hazards for junior doctors

Introduction

Why are medicolegal issues important?

As doctors, we all make mistakes – even an experienced surgeon can slip up. What is important is that you know how to respond to mistakes in the correct way. Most junior doctors are unsure about how medicine and law interact; this reflects a lack of teaching in medical schools, and a lack of understanding of how it works in practice.

Medicolegal principles underpin every move a clinician makes. In a climate where doctors have to justify their actions more and more to patients, colleagues and the GMC, knowing the medical law and guidance that surrounds one’s actions, will enable you to justify them.

Good doctors apply clinical knowledge in a way that is legally and ethically correct. They will also know when to consult senior colleagues and avoid working in a vacuum. Simple things like writing concise and accurate records, getting valid consent from patients and knowing when to seek advice can help you practise safely.

This leaflet takes you through the top five medicolegal hazards for junior doctors, and includes an example of how problems can arise in practice. If you need any further advice you can contact Medical Protection online or by phone. This will help you go onto the wards more confident that you will be able to practise safely.

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