Liability for medical malpractice--recent New Zealand developments

Med Law. 2009 Mar;28(2):301-15.


Over the last 30 years in New Zealand, civil liability for personal injury including "medical malpractice" has been most notable for its absence. The system of accident compensation and the corresponding bar on personal injury claims has been an interesting contrast to the development of tort law claims for personal injury in other jurisdictions. The Health and Disability Commissioner was appointed in 1994 to protect and promote the rights of health and disability consumers as set out in the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights. An important right in the Code, in terms of an equivalent to the common law duty to take reasonable care, is that patients have the right to services of an appropriate standard. Several case studies from the Commissioner's Office are used to illustrate New Zealand's unique medico-legal system and demonstrate how the traditional common law obligation of reasonable care and skill is applied. From an international perspective, the most interesting aspect of liability for medical malpractice in New Zealand is its relative absence - in a tortious sense anyway. This paper will give some general background on the New Zealand legal landscape and discuss recent case studies of interest.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Compensation and Redress / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liability, Legal*
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • New Zealand