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Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957] 1 WLR 583

The claimant was undergoing electro convulsive therapy as treatment for his mental illness. The doctor did not give any relaxant drugs and the claimant suffered a serious fracture. There was divided opinion amongst professionals as to whether relaxant drugs should be given. If they are given there is a very small risk of death, if they are not given there is a small risk of fractures. The claimant argued that the doctor was in breach of duty by not using the relaxant drug.

Held:

The doctor was not in breach of duty. The House of Lords formulated the Bolam test:

"a medical professional is not guilty of negligence if he has acted in accordance with a practice accepted as proper by a responsible body of medical men skilled in that particular art . . . Putting it the other way round, a man is not negligent, if he is acting in accordance with such a practice, merely because there is a body of opinion who would take a contrary view."
 
Back to lecture outline on breach of duty in negligence