A policy document providing instructions on the decision to prosecute in medical errors came into effect on November 1st 2010. In this document the Dutch Public Prosecution Service has attempted to make clear which criteria should be adopted when deciding to prosecute in the case of a medical error. There have also been other recent developments in this context: the public prosecutor can now demand access to medical files in certain, highly exceptional circumstances, such as when patients are themselves suspected of committing a criminal offence; and the Dutch Health Care Inspectorate may only pass on a patient’s medical file to the public prosecutor if the prosecutor is already in possession of a copy of it. The new policy document leaves several questions unanswered. It does not consider the criminal liability of health care institutions, for example, and there is too much focus on the responsibilities of individual health care workers.
Conflict of interest: none declared. Financial support: none declared.