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Presse Med. 2001 Oct 6;30(28):1380-3.

[The obligation of means and the obligation of results].

[Article in French]

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Service des urgences, CHU, 4, rue Larrey, F49100 Angers.


Several important decisions were made in 2000 concerning the proof of malpractice and the fundamental principles of medical responsibility. In order to guarantee indemnities for victims of medical accidents, the French courts have facilitated the implication of medical responsibility for medical accidents. The notion of a "virtual fault" was developed allowing the courts to retain the responsibility of the surgeon for instance for injury to the sublingual nerve during extraction of a wisdom tooth or for injury to the popliteal artery (March 23, 2000). These decisions not only facilitate the demonstration of malpractice but also modify the definition of responsibility, all physicians being required to use all available means. Likewise, although jurisprudence asserts that a safe result is mandatory in certain areas, the essential obligation is the absence of "fault" and not the result despite the disquieting arguments put forward by the Paris appeals court in its January 15, 1999 decree. The patient's right to a result was sustained only in well defined areas.

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