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Patient safety has become a significant and pressing policy issue. Around the world, governments, the health care sector and the public are increasingly cognizant of the need to improve the safety of care delivered by their health systems. Pressure for change has been created by highly publicized incidents in a number of countries involving unsafe acts that were significant both in scale and consequence and a number of empirical studies that revealed the high rates of unsafe acts and their consequences. The costs of unsafe health care – both personal and fiscal – to individuals, their families and their communities and to the state are massive.

In this research project we explored one particular avenue for change – that is, the use of legal instruments by governments to improve patient safety. We did this through a comparative review of the use of legal instruments or frameworks in other countries (specifically Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) as well as two non- health care related sectors in Canada (transportation and occupational health and safety).

We began this research by reviewing the legal instruments and undertaking extensive literature reviews. Further information was gathered through in-person interviews with policy-makers and academics in the countries studied, and from policy-makers and academics expert in the health, occupational health and safety, and transportation sectors in Canada. Once descriptions of the various countries and sectors were drafted, we held small-group meetings with local experts on particular aspects of patient safety. We then hosted a national consultation meeting. We subsequently drafted this final report and the appendices, which fully describe the results of the background research. Finally, we prepared a summary version of the report as well as posters and papers to be published and delivered at conferences and meetings with relevant groups.