ACHLR Public Lecture (18 September 2023)

Please join members of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research for a public lecture with Professor Kumaralingam Amirthalingam presenting:

Standard of Care: Diagnosis Treatment, Advice, Consent and Surgery

The starting point for the standard of care in medical negligence is the “peer professional” test set out in Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957] 1 WLR 582, according to which doctors may not be found negligent if their practice is accepted as proper by a responsible body of medical practitioners. Legislation in Australia has modified Bolam to require the impugned practice to be “widely accepted by peer professional opinion by a significant number of respected practitioners” (Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld) s 22(1). The Bolam test has been criticized for entrenching medical paternalism and its application to the duty to inform and advise has been rejected by courts around the common law world. In its stead, the courts have adopted the “prudent patient” test, according to which a risk is material if it is one to which a reasonable patient would attach significance or one which the doctors knows that the patient would consider significant.

In this lecture, Professor Amirthalingam will review the standard of care with respect to different dimensions of the doctor’s duty and argue that courts should not (perhaps already do not?) strictly apply Bolam to diagnosis and surgeries, especially when there is little room for medical discretion and greater expectations of certainty and precision. The focus of the lecture will be on recent developments on the duty to inform and advise in the United Kingdom and Singapore, driven by renewed emphasis on patient autonomy. While autonomy discourse has been necessary to move the needle on the negative aspects of medical paternalism, Professor Amirthalingam argues that it is not a natural bedfellow of the tort of negligence and is responsible for increased friction in the doctor-patient relationship and contradictions in the law.

About the presenter

Kumaralingam AmirthalingamKumaralingam Amirthalingam (pictured, right) is a Professor at the National University of Singapore Law School. He obtained his LLB and PhD in Law from the Australian National University where he began his academic career. He researches in selected areas of Tort Law (specializing in medical negligence and economic loss) and Criminal Law (specializing in public prosecutions). He teaches both these subjects as well as a Master’s course on Business Torts. Kumar has served as Vice Dean of the Law School and Chair of the NUS Teaching Academy. He is on the International Advisory Board of Medical Law International and Editorial Advisory Board of Medical Law Review. He was seconded to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for two years as Senior Director (Research & Policy) / Deputy Public Prosecutor and has served as Amicus Curiae in the Court of Appeal and as expert consultant to the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law.

The public lecture will be followed by panel discussion where attendees will hear from:

  • ACHLR Adjunct Professor Bill Madden, Special Counsel Carroll and O’Dea Lawyers, Sydney
  • ACHLR Adjunct Professor Anne-Maree Kelly, Senior Emergency Physician, Western Health, Melbourne
  • Dr Jamie Orchard, General Counsel, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  • Professor Tina Cockburn, Director, Australian Centre for Health Law Research

With concluding comments by Megan Fairweather, Chief Legal Counsel, Queensland Health.

Event details

Date: Monday 18 September, 2023
Time: 5pm to 7.30pm AEST
Location: Owen J. Wordsworth (OJW) Room, Level 12, S Block, QUT Gardens Point Campus, 2 George Street, Brisbane
Cost: Free

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