In clinical fields, healthcare professionals (like medical doctors, psychotherapists and nurses) have a legal and ethical ‘duty of care’ towards their clients. This means that they need to provide particular standards of care.
Sadly, we’ve all heard horror stories of healthcare professionals who have been struck off or prosecuted for prescribing lethal doses of medication to musicians who’ve perished as a result. Chris Gratton explains, “‘rock docs’ will write a prescription for anything, they want to be near the stars. They’ll prescribe whatever the fuck the star wants. You’ve seen it in a couple of massive worldwide cases where these artists end up overdosing because the doctor wants to be the best friend with them” (1). (2)
When a healthcare professional fails to meet clinical standards and you’re physically or mentally injured as a result, it’s called clinical negligence. Clinical negligence can arise in a variety of circumstances (including delayed diagnosis, birth injuries, or accident and emergency compensation claims). According to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (3), a healthcare professional may have been clinically negligent if they:
- Failed to diagnose your condition or made the wrong diagnosis.
- Made a mistake during a procedure or operation.
- Gave you the wrong drug.
- Didn’t get your informed consent to treatment.
- Didn’t warn you about the risks of a particular treatment.
Psychotherapists and counsellors have their own codes of ethics to ensure they act in the best interests of their clients. Here are some standards set by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) which pertain to practitioners working in the music business (visit their website (4) for the full list):
7. “Decline any gifts, favours, money or hospitality that might be interpreted as exploitative.
7. Be aware of the power imbalance between practitioner and client, and avoid dual or multiple relationships which risk confusing an existing relationship and may impact adversely on a client. If a dual or multiple relationship is unavoidable, for example in a small community, take responsibility for clarifying and managing boundaries and protecting confidentiality.
18. Respect, protect and preserve client’s confidentiality. You must protect sensitive and personally identifiable information obtained in the course of your professional work.”
If you’ve suffered an injury as a result of medical treatment, it may be classed as a ‘medical accident’ or ‘patient safety incident’. This doesn’t mean that your treatment was necessarily negligent. You can only claim compensation if it can be shown ‘on the balance of probability’ that:
- Their treatment was carried out negligently, that is, the care they received fell below medically acceptable standards, and…
- This directly caused your injury. (5)
Proving clinical negligence can be complicated and claims may be time-limited. If you believe you have been affected by clinical negligence, seek advice from a legal professional as soon as possible.
- Perhaps the most famous of these cases is that of The People of the State of California v. Conrad Robert Murray. Conrad Murray was the personal physician of Michael Jackson. Jackson died on 25th June 2009 during rehearsals for his This Is It tour as a result of receiving a lethal dose of the general anaesthetic propofol from Murray. Jackson was also taking a sedative Iorazepam (Ativan) at the time. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and given a four year sentence at Los Angeles County Jail. He was released two years later due to overcrowding and good behaviour. Murray also had his medical licenses revoked or suspected in the states he had previously been licensed to practice in.
- Tamsin Embleton interview with Chris Gratton interview, 16th February 2021.
- Citizensadvice.org.uk. 2021. Clinical negligence in the NHS – taking legal action. [online] Available at: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/nhs-and-social-care-complaints/complaining-about-the-nhs/taking-your-complaint-against-the-nhs-to-court/clinical-negligence-in-the-nhs-taking-legal-action/ [Accessed 7 August 2021].
- Anon, 2019. UKCP code of Ethics and Professional Practice 2019. https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/. Available at: https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/media/bkjdm33f/ukcp-code-of-ethics-and-professional-practice-2019.pdf [Accessed January 5, 2022].
- Anon, 2021. Clinical negligence in the NHS – taking legal action. Citizensadvice.org.uk. Available at: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/nhs-and-social-care-complaints/complaining-about-the-nhs/taking-your-complaint-against-the-nhs-to-court/clinical-negligence-in-the-nhs-taking-legal-action/ [Accessed 2021].