Moral and legal duties

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 43 , No. 7 , September 2001 , Pages 380 Letters

With reference to my letter published in your March issue [BCMJ 2001;43(2): 68] and Dr Mador’s comments that appeared in June [BCMJ 2001;43(5): 263] I would like to remind readers, physicians, and patients alike, that our Canadian medical insurance system is fundamentally different from that in Great Britain. (I am unaware of the legal implications in other countries.)

On being admitted to a National Health Service hospital in Great Britain, the patient enters a contract with the NHS for medical care. In Canada the patient’s contract is still with his or her personal physician. The state is under no obligation to provide medical care, but merely to pay the physician’s bill. The failure of a consulting physician in the NHS to attend a patient under his care is indeed a reprehensible lapse of a moral duty, but in the case of an attending physician in a Canadian hospital is also a breach of a legal contract.

—Michael Alms, MB 
Vancouver

Michael Alms, MB. Moral and legal duties. BCMJ, Vol. 43, No. 7, September, 2001, Page(s) 380 - Letters.



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