Duty of candour and keeping patients safe

Vinita Shekar, Peter A. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Over the decades we have witnessed legal cases influencing the government to develop the statutory duty of candour (DoC) in the medical profession, a duty that for a long time existed only in tort (civil) law. The purpose of the statutory DoC is understandingly important. For the public it simply reinforces an ethical duty already enforced by most professional regulators. For the medical profession, it is rather complex in ways that the courts can interpret and use, leaving uncertain legal ramifications for doctors. In this paper, we explore the law in relevance with DoC in the United Kingdom, and the limitations and controversies surrounding it for a better clarification and understanding. For organizations, we advocate the avoidance of bureaucracy in the DoC process and consideration of human factors before a regulatory response that avoids the fear of penalties, litigation and defensive practice among doctors undermining the development of culture of DoC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-505
Number of pages5
JournalSurgery (United Kingdom)
Issue number8
Early online date9 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Apology law
  • clinical negligence
  • duty of candour
  • errors
  • human factors
  • open disclosures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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