We tend to think of vicarious liability as a modern product of a society we believe is becoming more and more litigious. However, continuing my reading around case studies and their historical use, I’ve come across a portrait of how blame and fear of blame was heaped upon medical personnel delivering babies in 17th century France .
Katherine Crawford, in her 2007 book European Sexualities described the division of medical roles thus:
Male physicians dissected deceased pregnant women to understand reproduction, while female midwives attended living pregnant women. Trained largely through an apprentice system, midwives learned from other midwives and from participating in deliveries … As literacy spread, many midwives also consulted instructional manuals … Mostly, however, women learned by doing, and communities respected experienced midwives. Surgeons might assist if complications required their skills to remove a fetus, but social decorum preferred that women attended women.
By the late seventeenth century, however, female authority over childbirth came under attack from male physicians and men-midwives who privileged expertise over experience. Claims for rational investigation were combined with worries about population depletion blamed on the alleged murderous ignorance of female midwives .
Lianne McTavish denies a strict division along lines of gender politics, though she does find that “Female midwives not only marshalled male witnesses as a means of self-protection, but they sometimes also attempted to shift the responsibility onto men.”  She highlights the legislative position: Read the rest of this entry ?