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Comparative Summary

Doctors are usually held liable for malpractice in countries with government-sponsored health care systems, but governments often take measures to ease the related financial burden. This report analyzes physicians’ liability laws in Canada, England and Wales, Germany, and India, and reviews relevant national procedures and judicial rulings.

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Canada has a single-payer health insurance scheme that covers virtually all residents. Most physicians are in private practice and they bill the insurance plans for their services. Being in private practice, they require medical liability insurance. This is usually obtained through a professional organization. However, physicians are reimbursed for a large portion of their insurance premiums by provincial governments. Fees are lower than in the United States for a number of reasons. Two of these are that Canada’s highest courts have set limits on awards and the country’s liability laws make establishing professional negligence more difficult. Another is that the physicians’ insurance company defends lawsuits very vigorously.

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United Kingdom (England and Wales)

Medical liability for staff employed by the National Health Service (NHS) in England is addressed through the tort principle of vicarious liability. Where claims for negligence of employees of the NHS arise a program known as the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts addresses these issues. The program is funded through contributions by NHS Trusts that are members and operates on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, funding claims out of the monies it raises. The NHS Litigation Authority administers this program.

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Medical malpractice claims are mostly settled with the liability insurers, often after mediation services of the medical associations or the social health insurers have given expert opinions. Only 8 percent of medical malpractice cases are litigated.

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The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, provides protection of the interests of consumers. The Act brings within its ambit the services of the medical profession and treats patients as consumers of such services. For expeditious disposal of complaints of negligence or deficiency in service, a consumer may file a complaint in a District Forum for recovery of damages. Appeals from the District Forum may be filed before the State Commission and then before the National Commission. Decisions of the latter are appealable to the Supreme Court.

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Last Updated: 06/07/2015