Maynard -v- West Midlands Regional Health Authority; HL 1985

The test of professional negligence is the standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising and professing to have that special skill. Lord Scarman said: ‘a doctor who professes to exercise a special skill must exercise the ordinary skill must exercise the ordinary skill of his specialty. Differences of opinion and practice exist, and will always exist, in the medical as in other professions. There is seldom any one answer exclusive of all others to problems of professional judgment. A court may prefer one body of opinion to another: but that is no basis for conclusion of negligence’.
As to evidence of what constitutes evidence of professional standards, Lord Scarman said: ‘A judge’s ‘preference’ for one body of distinguished professional opinion to another also professionally distinguished is not sufficient to establish negligence in a practitioner whose actions have received the seal of approval of those whose opinions, truthfully expressed, honestly held, were not preferred. If this was the real reason for the judge’s finding, he erred in law even though elsewhere in his judgment he stated the law correctly. For in the realm of diagnosis and treatment negligence is not established by preferring one respectable body of professional opinion to another. Failure to exercise the ordinary skill of a doctor (in the appropriate speciality, if he be a specialist) is necessary.’

Court: HL
Date: 01-Jan-1985
Judges: Lord Scarman
References: [1985] 1 WLR 685, [1985] 1 All ER 635
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Filed under Personal Injury, Professional Negligence

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