Complaints and litigation in France

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Legal framework: article 6, section 3 of directive No. 2011/24          

Contesting a healthcare professional's refusal to provide care

Health care professionals have the right to refuse to provide care, but a strict set of rules applies. If you believe that you have been illegally denied care, you can submit a formal complaint, either:

by registered letter with return receipt. This letter must include:

Once a complaint has been received, mediation proceedings will be held before the mediation board («Commission de conciliation»). The board's administrative office will summon the parties at least two weeks prior to the date of the hearing. The victim may be assisted or represented by the person of their choice, which includes an accredited patients' association. Both the victim and the health care professional can submit a written statement to the mediation board if they are unable to attend the hearing.

Upon conclusion of the hearing, either:

You can also file a direct complaint with France's citizens' rights commissioner («Défenseur des droits») either by filling out an online form or by mailing a letter to: Défenseur des droits, 7 rue Saint-Florentin, 75409 Paris Cedex 08. Make sure to attach a copy of any documentation that is illustrative of your situation (official reports, copies of police complaints, medical certificates, etc.), as well as your complete contact information).

If you suffer harm from treatment received in France

1. Healthcare facility mediation

You can submit a request for mediation to the facility, either by contacting the director of the hospital directly, or by going through the medical or non-medical mediator, or the User Relations and Quality of Care Board (“Commission des relations avec les usagers et de la qualité de la prise en charge”/ CRUQPC), by way of a letter spelling out your complaints with regard to your care.

You may be offered a direct transaction with the healthcare facility's insurer. In addition, under certain circumstances, you can apply to the Medical accident arbitration and compensation board (Commission de conciliation et d'indemnisation des accidents médicaux/ CCI). When certain seriousness requirements are met, the CCI conducts an adversarial inquiry at no charge to the applicant in order to determine the cause-and-effect relationship between the medical procedures provided and the harm suffered by the patient. The CCI issues an opinion either denying your application or requiring that compensation be paid either by the healthcare professional's insurer, or by the French National Medical Accident Compensation Office (« Office national d'indemnisation des accidents médicaux »/ ONIAM) if a no-fault medical accident is at issue.

2. Complaints submitted to professional boards

Professional boards bring together all of the members of a single profession and provide a type of regulation over that profession. You can submit your complaint to the professional boards which are in charge of examining health care professionals' ethics-related disciplinary liability, whether they are based at a public facility or a private practice

Board Website Information on procedures followed
Physicians www.conseil-national.medecin.fr FAQ
Dental surgeons ordre-chirurgiens-dentistes.fr Settling disputes
Pharmacists www.ordre.pharmacien.fr Disciplinary committees
Massage and Physical Therapists www.ordremk.fr Oversight committee
Nurses www.ordre-infirmiers.fr How to submit a complaint to the Board
Midwives ordre-sages-femmes.fr National disciplinary committee
Chiropodists-podiatrists www.onpp.fr Board oversight committees

3. Bringing legal action

If you suffer harm from cross-border healthcare provided in France, you are entitled to damages under common law. Indeed, health professionals and healthcare facilities alike are liable for any harm resulting from proven medical malpractice.

The French Justice Ministry's website lists contact information to help you find the appropriate administrative (public-sector health care provider) or civil court (private-sector provider) by entering the name of the town in which the provider is located.

Please be aware that you can bring both types of proceedings at the same time.