Danckert Bärlein Partner

Criminal Liability of Healthcare Professionals

Criminal law also plays an increasingly important role in the rapidly-growing healthcare industry. The increasing potential of modern medicine has increased expectations among patients and their relatives. Sometimes, these expectations obscure the general risks of life and the realities of modern healthcare. The result is an increase in criminal cases against healthcare professionals.

In this area, criminal law applies firstly to classical wrongdoing associated with “medical malpractice” – namely, negligent bodily injury (§ 229 Penal Code) or negligent homicide (§ 222 Penal Code). But other facets of medical care or rehabilitation are also involved. Prosecution for violations of confidentiality (§ 203 Penal Code), false imprisonment (§ 239 Penal Code), or forgery (§ 267 Penal Code) are just a few examples. Other possibilities include criminal misconduct relating to licensing and examinations, as well as in advertising and distributing medications. In this context, violations of the Law on Medications, the Law on Medical Products, and the Law on Advertising of Medications can result in criminal prosecutions.

Further, the practical transformation of medical facilities into businesses involves additional risks of criminal liability. Questions arise ever more frequently about the criminal responsibility of business managers, medical directors, or supervising physicians in cases of billing fraud, breach of trust, or corruption.

Criminal proceedings in this area are often complex owing to the close connection between legal and medical issues, as well as the wide-ranging consequences in the areas of licensing and labor-law. For targets of investigations, criminal penalties, in combination with the civil-law damages usually associated with them, are a serious burden – often serious enough to end careers.

Our lawyers have years of experience advising and defending clients in such matters. Past clients have included doctors, medical researchers, and caregivers, as well as laboratories, hospitals, healthcare facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and institutions which perform research or provide healthcare, including long-term care. We also provide preventive services to handle emerging situations of potential criminal liability, or the internal handling of incidents which may have such consequences.

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