HEC Forum

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 145–157 | Cite as

Medical Error, Malpractice and Complications: A Moral Geography

  • David M. Zientek


This essay reviews and defines avoidable medical error, malpractice and complication. The relevant ethical principles pertaining to unanticipated medical outcomes are identified. In light of these principles I critically review the moral culpability of the agents in each circumstance and the resulting obligations to patients, their families, and the health care system in general. While I touch on some legal implications, a full discussion of legal obligations and liability issues is beyond the scope of this paper.


Medical error Malpractice Preventable error Adverse event 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seton Medical CenterAustinUSA
  2. 2.The Center for Clinical BioethicsGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.AustinUSA

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