[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
September 27, 1965

Survey of the Law of Medical Practice: III. Civil Wrongs in the Practice of Medicine

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1965;193(13):1108-1114. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090130036012

A society such as ours, which considers each person as possessing equal rights, provides a means to insure these rights. Infringements or violations by one person of the personal or property rights of another for which an action for damages may be maintained are civil wrongs or "torts." The word is derived from old French, as a modification of the Latin "tortus" meaning crooked or twisted. In modern French the word "tort" simply means "wrong."

We are accustomed to think of the individual torts rather than the group of infringements, and words such as "assault," "defamation," "fraud," "trespass," "nuisance," and "negligence" are all familiar. As a group, these are torts and have many features in common. The only essential difference among the torts is the specific right which has been infringed.

To use a mnemonic, a tort consists of four "D's": Duty, Dereliction, Direct causation, and D