Lotta Westerhäll and patient’s rights in the US and Sweden

Lotta Westerhäll is a professor of social law. She has compared patient’s rights in the US and Sweden, in her 1992 An Introduction to Medical Malpractice Law In the United States and Sweden – The Rights of Patients (Norstedts juridik, Göteborg).

“This attitude [of the judiciary to malpractice litigation] is quite different in Sweden from that in the United States. As has been mentioned above, extremely few cases have been subject to tort litigation in Sweden… the courts… in very few cases, award damages, which are but a fraction of what would be assessed against the defendant for similar injuries in the United States” (p. 127)

“Swedish doctors really have little to fear from malpractice litigation, and the evidence suggests that this is true…” (p. 128)

“Sound practical reasons, as well as subtle cutlural influences, may explain why Swedish patients generally adopt a less aggressive attitude toward medical malpractice than do many Americans. The explanation also lies, no doubt, also in the differences between the Swedish and American legal systems, societal and institutional factors that reduce the propensity to sue, and the availability of other forms of seeking relief.” (p. 128)

In this rather careful and vague way, she suggests that Swedes not only are less free and have less abilities to protect their individual rights against medical malpractice than Americans, but also that culture and mentality is a factor. In other words, Swedes are afraid to challenge the authorities.

However, it would be more interesting to instead compare Sweden with other European countries, an especially the other Nordic countries. Are the mentality of the people and the attitude of the judiciary the same as in Sweden?

How afraid are British, Danish, Dutch or Finish doctors of malpractice litigation?


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