Ascertaining the severity of culpability

L’accertamento della gravità della colpa medica

With sentence no. 4905 of 15 February 2022, the Supreme Court of Cassation addressed the issue of professional liability on the part of doctors in cases of slight negligence.

The case examined by the judges of the Supreme Court refers to a child with Congenital Bilateral Hip Dysplasia for whom the doctor who issued the diagnosis foresaw treatment using the “Giò Corrective Panty” for two months, which was to be followed by a specialist consultation. After performing an X-ray the specialist decided to continue treatment using the “Rigid Panty” and a hip retractor for several months, until he deemed it appropriate to perform an operation to reduce the dysplasia, thereby restoring a normal relationship between the femoral head and the acetabulum.

However, following this operation, the initial dysplasia worsened and, only after four further operations were performed at a different health facility was the child able to take her first steps at the age of three.

The request for compensation presented by the parents against the doctor was rejected by the Court of Appeal as, according to the Board in this case it would have been more appropriate to speak of slight negligence in the treatment of dysplasia or of negligence due to inexperience given the particular difficulty of The Case.

The Supreme Court’s Legitimacy Judges, disagreeing with the Court of Appeals interpretation, intervened to reform this sentence clarifying that the seriousness of the slight negligence assessment must not be connected to the seriousness of the pathology, but to the difficulty of The Intervention.

In other words, the slightness of the negligence is not when The Pathology is serious but when Treatment of it is difficult. Therefore, it is the difficulty of The Intervention that makes the fault less serious and less rigorously judged.