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This is a term paper on the historical nature of medical malpractice.

The general concept of professional malpractice was well rooted in English legal theory by the beginning of the 18th century. In 1768, Sir William Blackstone linked that universal concept clearly to physicians. His famous Commentaries on the Laws of England incorporated under mala praxis from which the modern word malpractice is derived, “Injuries … by the neglect or unskilful management of [a person’s] physician, surgeon, or apothecary … because it breaks the trust which the party had placed in his physician, and tends to the patient’s destruction.”(Blackstone, 1768) Blackstone’s (1768) Commentaries were extensively read in the American colonies and remained influential through the early national period of US history. But as a practical matter, actions for medical malpractice were seldom taken in the United States through the first third of the 19th century. Even at a theoretical level, the medico-legal notion of malpractice was so hidden and so inconsequential in the United States that American writers on medical jurisprudence, those most expected to be interested in the subject as an aspect of legal medicine, did not bother to mention it through the first 4 decades of the 19th century. The vast preponderance of US lawyers would not have known how to draft an action for medical malpractice. (Mohr, 2000)

All of that distorted, quite abruptly in historical terms, around 1840. By 1850, medical malpractice litigation as Americans recognizes it today was a recognized phenomenon. Several factors help account for its sudden appearance at that meticulous point in US history. The onset of medical malpractice litigation relate with a sharp decline of religious fatalism and a dramatic rise of religious perfectionism.

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