Bolam test

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Bolam test

A test that arose from English tort law, which is used to assess medical negligence. Bolam holds that the law imposes a duty of care between a doctor and his patient, but the standard of that care is a matter of medical judgement.

Under Bolam, the plaintiff seeking to prove medical negligence needs to (1) show that there was a duty of care between the doctor or nurse and the patient, which is usually a straightforward exercise, and (2) that the act or omission of the doctor or nurse breached the duty of care. In Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957], the court held that there is no breach of standard of care if a responsible body of similar professionals support the practice that caused the injury, even if the practice was not the standard of care. The ruling meant that the accused doctor need only to find an expert who would testify to having done the same thing. Thus, Bolam was criticised for its overreliance on medical testimony and personal judgement of experts chosen by the defendant. Bolam has been subsequently modified by the Bolitho test (see there).